Ruthless Predator

Part 2 of Stalking the Wolf

As mentioned in my last post, Winston Churchill stands as a towering monument to the asset and liability that typifies bipolar disorder. But the former Prime Minister of England is far from an anomaly of leadership greatness.

In fact, today more than ever, legions of high-functioning artists, educators, musicians, and entrepreneurs testify to the notion that bipolar disorder may often prove more a heavenly gift than demonic curse.

Some of society’s most celebrated personalities claim elite star status as members of the bipolar fraternity – Dan Rather, Mel Gibson, Selena Gomez, Mike Tyson, Terry Bradshaw, Billy Joel, Ken Griffey Jr., Picabo Street, Conor McGregor, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, Francis Ford-Cappola, Richard Dreyfuss, Mel Gibson, Demi Lovato, Rene Ruso, and Brian Wilson. And those are just the few courageous enough to come out about it.

For me, one man stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the fraternity. For one, because he has been so refreshingly outspoken about his own bipolar status than any of his peers, by far. Secondly, because I so admire his extraordinary career as one of the greatest media industry entrepreneurs in history. His name?

Ted Turner.

It’s no secret that his personal and business lives have at times collided like a spectacular train wreck. Three failed marriages and a disastrous corporate merger that cost him his job, his company, his identity, and billions of dollars, to mention just a few.

Curiously, however, he’s also been one of the most generous philanthropists in modern history, pledging a one-billion-dollar gift to the UN along with millions he donates annually through his Captain Planet Foundation and Turner Endangered Species Fund.

For his part, professionally, Turner has enjoyed more media industry success than anyone on the planet. Turner Broadcasting, Turner Communications, Turner Classic Movies, CNN, Cartoon Network – brilliant broadcast and cable entities which were conceived and launched by the man best known as a household catch phrase for two decades: “The mouth of the south” for his brash and bullying style as owner of the Atlanta Braves. And “Captain Courageous” for his stunning come-from-behind victory of the fabled America’s Cup yacht race in 1977.

Earning those titles did not come without a predator’s instincts — for the kill in business and a take-no-prisoners hubris. Plus a curious concoction of personality quirks – “flamboyant, volatile, charming, witty, handsome, outrageous, disrespectful, uncouth, irreverent, jaunty, courteous and rude,” as The New York Times once described him.

Newsweek Magazine once described Ted as part Mark Twain, Horatio Alger and Errol Flynn. Those iconic stereotypes may be a bit generous in describing this enigmatic man, but Ted would be the very first person to unabashedly declare that his inner bipolar man was at the heart of his most noteworthy achievements.

Harvard Business Review supports the assertion that bipolar has its advantages, but also a ghoulish side.

As history shows, manic-depressive leaders are great in a crisis, refusing to bow to adversity. They rush in where others feared to tread and can inspire others to follow. The downside is that due to their extreme sense of empowerment, energy and optimism, their thinking and judgment can be flawed. Caught up in their grandiosity, they overestimate their capabilities and try to do more than they can handle. The problems are often aggravated by an inability to recognize that their behavior is dysfunctional. While “high,” they rarely have insight into their condition. They like the sense of invulnerability that comes with the “high,” and are reluctant to give that up.

When the inevitable setbacks and disasters happen, they fall into a tailspin of depression.”

In my first two posts I described the seeming omnipotence of mania in stark contrast to the dark underbelly of depression, both of which I’ve personally encountered as brooding bedfellows at times in my life.

What I will endeavor to do in my next and final post of this blog series is offer simple, practical tips and tactics that nearly anyone can use to keep the wolf – my term for manic depression – at bay.

I firmly believe most of us can learn quickly to not only manage our mood swings with a modicum of skill, but take them captive, transition from prey to predator, hunted to hunter, by taking the offensive — stalking and cornering the wolf to keep him at bay.


Stalking The Wolf

Part one of a three – part TrailMasters series

One of the darkest moments in history provides a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of one of the world’s most celebrated leaders – Winston Churchill.

Most of us recall Churchill as the Prime Minister of England during World War II. He was, unabashedly, the man who wielded Britain’s military might against Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, and ultimately saved his nation from the encroaching clutches of Nazism.

What most historians fail to acknowledge, however, is the incontrovertible secret weapon that helped Churchill ensure passage into the annals of leadership greatness. His artillery was not his mortal intellect, though it was formidable; nor his instinctive military strategies and acumen for launching counterattacks on Hitler’s vast army; nor his oratory prowess that inspired a nation to collectively take up arms to defeat the Nazi regime.

At the root of Churchill’s psyche was something beyond mortal fortitude. It was that thing — the fleeting, evasive, at times sinister, destructive and omnipotent gift — that continues even now to mystify historians.

What was it?

It was his chronic, unbridled bouts of manic depression, more commonly known as bipolar disorder.

Before you dismiss this dubious assertion, let me paint a clearer picture of this enigmatic man and what modern science and psychology have only recently discovered about the blessing – and curse – of what has emerged as one of the most invasive and ubiquitous pandemics in our time.

It is well chronicled in numerous biopics and biographies that Churchill’s mood swings were legendary. As documented by one of the nation’s top psychologists and researchers on the topic of leadership, throughout his life Churchill was so paralyzed by despair that he spent time in bed, had little energy, few interests, lost his appetite, couldn’t concentrate. He was minimally functional – and this didn’t just happen once or twice in the 1930s, but also in the 1920s and 1910s and earlier. These darker periods would last a few months, and then he’d come out of it and be his normal self.

In an early letter to his wife Clementine in 1911, after hearing a friend’s wife had received some help for depression from a German doctor, he wrote:

I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colors come back into the picture.

But normal for Churchill was in a sense also rather abnormal: when he wasn’t severely depressed and low in energy and lying in bed, Churchill had very high energy levels. He wouldn’t go to sleep until two or three in the morning, instead staying up and dictating his dozens of books. He would talk incessantly in a tantivy of whirling thoughts. So much so that the then US president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said of him: “He has a thousand ideas a day, four of which are good.” These are manic symptoms, part of the disease of manic depression (which includes but is not exactly the same thing as today’s “bipolar” illness terminology).

After some time, Churchill would go back into months of not talking, not having any ideas, not having any energy. And then he’d be back up again. His mood swings were more than likely related to why Churchill drank so heavily.

To whom fate was entrusted

This was the life of the man to whom the fate of Britain was being entrusted. Britain couldn’t afford Churchill to become depressed and despairing and non-functional for months during the war. Thankfully, there was another man standing behind Churchill: his physician Lord Moran. Moran prescribed amphetamines for Churchill in later years for his depressive episodes and a barbiturate from 1940 to help him sleep.

Despite all this, historians haven’t wanted to admit it: how could a great man have severe depression (much less manic depression, which is likely more correct)? Even the great writer William Manchester in his posthumous 2012 biography, The Last Lion, rejected the evidence of Churchill’s psychiatric disease.

Deify and deny: great men cannot be ill, certainly not mentally ill.

But what if was they’re not only ill; what if they’re great, not in spite of manic depression but because of it?

My recent research has suggested that in times of crisis, it is sometimes those who are seen as quirky, odd or with a mental disorder that show the greatest leadership. Mania enhances creativity and resilience to trauma, while depression increases realism and empathy. Churchill was a creative, resilient and realistic leader, and empathic to Jews at a time of common British anti-Semitism. **

Part 2 of this series will focus on the legions of today’s great leaders in sports, entertainment affected by bipolar disorder, and one in particular who’s had one of the greatest impacts on the broadcast and media industry in our generation — Ted Turner.

What Should I Do?

Whether we know it or not, we all wake up with this simple question on our minds. For some the question is driven by ambition, conquest, or sport. For many others, sadly, it’s motivated by a spirit of fear. The fear of failure. The fear of rejection. The fear of man.

But that’s not really the question we should be asking as we endeavor to seize the day.

You see, at least for me, I believe there’s a driving force deeply embedded in our hearts and minds that took root in the womb, before we were even born…

(Check back tomorrow for the story, and to learn what much bigger question you may want to be asking going forward in 2020)

The First Guy Naked Wins

There’s an image I’ve played in my head for years.

It’s the most momentous event of my life, a vivid scene of reckoning that’s yet to come. But as sure as death and my entrance into the great hereafter, it will indeed come.

It’s that moment in time when, as the song “I Can Only Imagine” states, I meet Jesus face to face.

I have no clue what events will transpire besides the great judgement of my life — for the things I did, didn’t do, think or say.

Once that moment has passed (thank God), at some point in the hereafter my mind imagine’s I’ll have a chance to speak face to face with Jesus, and get the chance to ask a few questions.

The most important one I’ll ask is this…

During all the dark, painful, unfruitful times in my life, why didn’t you deliver me from my enemies…from the demons of my childhood, from crushing failure, from those who rejected me, from deception and stifling bouts of depression and anxiety?


My dear friend Mark helped prepare me for the answer, the explanation of the ”why?” of unanswered prayer.

In a brief conversation Mark paraphrased a passage of scripture that brought a whole new light to the “why?” and “what-for?” of unanswered prayer.

He paraphrased the story documented and scientifically validated in history, of a man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit.

The story goes that as the crowds were following Jesus from town to town, seeking for him to perform more miracles on the sick and diseased, a man in the crowd yelled “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by an evil spirit that throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes stiff. I asked your disciples to drive it out but they were unable.”

Jesus sternly replies “O you unbelieving generation! How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring me the boy.”

So they brought him, and seeing Jesus, the evil spirit immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus then asked the boy’s father “How long has this been with him?”

“From childhood, he said. “It often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If you can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who believes!”

Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd had come running, he rebuked the unclean spirit, “You deaf and dumb evil spirit,” he commanded, “I command you to come out and never enter him again.”

After shrieking and convulsing him violently, the spirit came out. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Jesus answered, “This kind cannot come out, but by prayer and fasting.”

There’s so much meaning to this story I don’t know where to begin unraveling it.

But I’ll just say the thing that strikes me most is the notion that the disciples – whom Jesus was training to build his church upon his ascension after his resurrection – had no effect in attempting to cure this boy or cast out the vicious demon that crippled him so severely.

I’m convinced the disciples, after spending many months watching Jesus cast out evil spirits and healing the sick, saw a methodology that worked. So they tried to copy it, not knowing that the true power in the miracle of healing comes solely from the heart and mind, not a formulaic method or display of hubris or empty rhetoric.

I’m also convinced the other secret ingredient to miraculous healing and deliverance from our enemies, as with Jesus, lies in complete transparency of the person seeking the miracle.

The truly miraculous always finds its place in the hearts and minds men and women who — with transparency before God and others — pray early, often, and always. But that’s the problem, and the problem with the disciples’ feeble efforts — “the effectual prayer of a righteous man”, though it avails much, is nearly impossible to pull off. Because, unlike Jesus, we’re human and our distractions quickly take our focus off God and onto temporal things. The command to “pray often and always” is not for the faint of heart and mind, which is often why our prayers don’t get answered.

They say there’s healing in bearing one’s soul to another, to bear one another’s burdens – in all their ugly, ghoulish darkness – to a trusted friend.

This man trusted Jesus as a friend and healer, which boiled down to faith in the impossible.

In 2020 I’m hoping and praying for my own miracles – from deliverance from the enemies and obstacles of my soul that would like to bring my dreams to their knees.

But with simple, humble transparency and the plea of “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” I’m striving for greater transparency, to be a burden bearer for my friends, and to live in the naked truth in a miraculous life of faith.

(taken from Phil’s blog —



SILVERDALE, Wash—IBDs enter the e-bike market with distinct advantages over other channels: consumers instinctively expect to find e-bikes in bike shops, the shops have service departments already skilled with the bikes’ non-electric parts, they know how to fit riders to their bikes, and they have relationships with the major bike brands now offering e-bikes.

But the channel remains nervous.

An array of statistics show explosive e-bike sales growth in the IBD market. For example, wholesale sales of the bikes were up 79 percent last year in the U.S., and the bikes’ high average selling price helped bolster revenues in a year when the number of bikes sold declined 10 percent. But the still immature market segment could evolve in ways that don’t favor traditional bike shops.

Enormous companies from the automotive and motorcycle world are entering the market — in the U.S., GM and Harley Davidson are just the first — and are likely to sell through their existing dealerships.

Consumer-direct e-commerce brands promise lower prices and convenience favored by modern consumers. E-bike and e-scooter share programs threaten to overshadow retail sales. The industry took note, for example, when Uber’s Lime division began importing thousands of e-bikes this winter.

In the enthusiast market, some note with alarm that companies like Harley-Davidson and Cake are offering light electric offroad bikes that don’t bother with human power: will electric bikes with pegs, but not pedals, pull sales away from the e-MTB?

Some IBDs remember being burned by earlier generations of unreliable e-bikes, while others fear that traditional IBD suppliers are on the wrong track pushing e-bikes that sell for $3,000 and more, opening the door for other channels offering e-bikes for half that.

E-bikes, like other tech products, are becoming better values with each new generation and at least one analyst worries that if the growth rate softens, the industry and retailers could be stuck with showrooms full of the equivalent of last year’s laptops — lesser products at the same or higher price tag.

In a January report on retail bike sales, an NPD Group analyst noted that while e-bike sales were continuing to grow, the growth rate was softening, “indicating the early stages of market saturation.”

Finally, e-bike only retailers and suppliers appear to be outperforming IBDs and their traditional suppliers in the e-nbike market.

Ed Benjamin, CEO of the International Light Electric Vehicle Association, noted that two of the fastest growing brands in the U.S. e-bike world, Pedego and Seattle-area supplier Rad Power Bikes, have one thing in common: focus.

“What do we know about them,” asked Benjamin? “They’re focused on electric bikes. They’re focused on electric bikes. And by the way, they’re focused on electric bikes.”

“The bottom line is focus. You can do a little research and find out that where one IBD bike shop may sell four or five e-bikes in a year, an established e-bike shop is selling a couple hundred. It’s not rocket science. Focus is everything.”

But Benjamin remains bullish on e-bike sales through IBDs.

“It’s important to understand the shifting trends in the bike industry, like the mountain bike craze or the 10-speed boom in the 70s. During the peak of those trends we saw a wide range of retailers jumped on the train — department stores, drugstores, toy stores, and hardware stores. The same is happening right now. It’s a bit like the Oklahoma Land Rush—ebikes are now lining the sales floors of garden and tractor supply stores, Costco warehouses, sporting goods stores, even RV and boat dealerships. It will settle down, and in time only reliable, solid dealers will remain.”

“The truth about established IBDs is that they generally have an advantage over their new-to-the-scene ebike retail counterparts. They’ve got the bicycle tools, bicycle parts, they know how to fix bikes. A good 90% of electric bike problems are bike problems. Yet, it’s not uncommon to see an ebike mechanic who knows how to swap out a defective controller but has no clue how to true a wheel.

“The only thing that’s keeping IBD bike mechanics from servicing electric bikes is fear.”

Even Pedego, which sells through more than 100 licensed Pedego-only stores, is seeing growth potential in the traditional IBDs. The company launched a trial program this winter to explore opening Pedego “store-within-store” in bike shops.

Retailers like David Brumsickle, who opened Silverdale Cyclery in Washington in 1985, are finding their way into the e-bike market after years of watching the category develop.

Brumsickle sees e-bikes as a solution to slow growth in the enthusiast market his store has served for decades, but he’s been careful about taking the right approach.

“We started exploring e-bikes 10 years ago,” he said. “The first ones were either very expensive or very unreliable. But In the last couple of years e-bikes began to be standardized … motors, batteries and controllers. But the price points were still above peoples’ tolerance here locally.”

Brumsickle eventually settled on offering e-bikes in the $1,500- $2,500 range that fit his customers’ needs.

“It’s a bit early,” says Brumsickle, “but we’re ready for the selling season. It’s definitely our year to go electric with some great products I know our customers are going to buy. It’s time.”

This article written by Phil Herzog for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News Magazine.

Vantage Road To Lead Media Production For SmoothStone Entertainment

For Immediate Release

January 15, 2019

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

Seattle-based SmoothStone Sports + Entertainment is pleased to announce a new partnership with Vantage Road Media Production to provide live-event TV production and video services to SmoothStone’s sports and entertainment clients.

“I’m thrilled to be partnering with Phil Herzog and his SmoothStone team. We’ve been good friends for over a decade, and I’m so excited to finally get to work with him on some of his cool entertainment projects,” said Craig Kelly, CEO of Vantage Road.

Future media projects undertaken by Vantage Road for SmoothStone will include live event video and TV direction, video shoots and editing for entertainment, nonprofit and corporate clients.

About Vantage Road

Vantage Road is a media production company led by company founder and CEO Craig Kelly. Their media engagements have included live event TV and video production for global brands and organizations including Boeing, Billy Graham International Crusades, The Winter Olympics, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Rolling Stone, The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, President Barack Obama and many others.

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a boutique business development agency that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at 360.621.2753 or

E-Joe E-Bikes Continues Dealer Growth With SmoothStone S+ E

November 14, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

SmoothStone Sports + Entertainment Marketing has recently recruited two strategic Pacific Northwest bike shops to the fast-expanding dealer network of E-Joe Electric Bikes, the nation’s top-rated electric bikes in the affordable lightweight commuter and folding ebike category.

Silverdale Cyclery, located in central Kitsap County, now carries eJoe’s #1 rated and top-selling electric folding bike, the Epik Sport Edition. Through the holiday season Silverdale Cyclery will be selling the Epik SE with an attractive $200 off discount. Until December 16, any bike purchased with SC’s special online discount code or at the shop’s location in Silverdale will be drop-shipped and delivered before Christmas.

The Bicycle Repair Shop, located at 68 Madison Street in Seattle, will also begin carrying the Epik SE as of November 21, also on a drop-ship basis.

“What’s so exciting about these two new dealers is that they’re so strategically located within close proximity to the Seattle ferry terminals, and they both have stellar reputations for their bike repair and service expertise. We can support these two shops with a great, reliable ebike, a step up from many of the entry level bikes like RadPower and Prodeco. I think we’re going to sell a lot of bikes in the downtown Seattle and Kitsap County markets,” said Willy Suwandy, E-Joe’s CEO.

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a boutique business development agency that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at 360.621.2753 or

About E-Joe Electric Bikes

E-Joe ebikes has been named the top-rated electric bike in the affordable light-weight commuter and folding category for over seven years. Several E-Joe ebike models have been nominated “ebike of the year” by Interbike, and given top-ratings by industry go-to publications such as Bicycle Retailer magazine, The Electric Bike Report, Electric Bike Review and Turbo Bob. E-Joe is headquartered in San Diego, CA where all ebike models are designed, warehoused and quality controlled. For inquiries regarding dealer opportunities and ebike purchases contact Willy Suwandy at

SmoothStone Entertainment Partners With I-AM Media For Mobile Event Marketing And National Silent Disco DJ Series

November 6, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

SmoothStone Entertainment is pleased to announce its newest marketing partnership agreement with I-Alternative Media, a mobile out-of-home street marketing program utilizing converted box trucks with embedded DJs who play music to engage pedestrians and event-goers in the Seattle area. Each disco truck is supported by two-person street teams who simultaneously pass out VIP vouchers and coded coupons allowing recipients to redeem online discounts for sponsored products or exclusive access to venues such as the Hard Rock Café, the Edgewater Hotel and the Seattle Thompson’s Nest penthouse lounge.

Additionally, under the creative direction of founder and president Darran Bruce, SmoothStone will undertake an aggressive business development outreach targeting national hospitality brands and food and beverage businesses seeking a unique, more innovative way to connect their brands with hotel, restaurant, brewery and club guests–initially in the Seattle area, then scaling Eastward.

Aptly named “Silent Disco” offered by The DJ Sessions Event Services, this new-concept entertainment experience utilizes the latest wireless audio technology via headsets that allow guests to listen and dance to any of four separate DJ channels streamed under one roof—for example, hip-hop, disco, trance or house music—by simply switching neon color-coded music channels.

“The DJ Sessions’ Silent Disco has been great for The Hardrock Café. Everyone loves the silent disco concept, and we expect it will continue to drive more first-time guests to our venue who want to dance and party to Seattle’s best DJ tunes. You guys have a total hit on your hands…give us more!”

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a boutique business development agency that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at 360.621.2753 or

Pitching Martha Stewart

A few years ago a business colleague and I embarked on a much-heralded “mission-impossible” business trip with the expectation (albeit woefully unfounded) of conquering the magazine publishing industry. More precisely, we were sent out by our fearless leader Gilbert Sherrer, the company CEO, to unveil what we believed would become the holy grail subscription model for the nation’s top magazine circulation directors, to help them acquire a treasure trove of new subscribers in the epicenter of magazine publishing—Midtown Manhattan.

Our quest, we were convinced, was the embodiment of Webster’s definition of mission: an important assignment carried out for political, religious, or commercial purposes, typically involving travel. My deep faith in our cause was indeed political (we were trying to convince the naysaying magazine leaders of America our company, Passage Events, had built a better acquisition mousetrap. It was religious (in my world there’s no invisible line between the secular and sacred…everything’s sacred if done with the right motive). And it was certainly commercial in the sense that we were storming the shores of the Isle of Manhattan like buccaneers hoping to plunder the riches of publishing’s biggest nameplates—Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Readers Digest, Men’s Health, Spin, Rolling Stone, Outdoor Life, Shape, etc.

Before we go further, a little about me and our company, Passage Events.

Though I’m sorry to say Passage is no longer the formidable company it once was (a shadow of its former self, Rally Marketing Group is the rising phoenix of the company), my boss, the VP of Sales and I were Sales Captain and Wingman for what was at the time the largest and most successful event marketing company on the west coast (with clients including Starbucks, American Express, DirecTV, CitiCard, etc). And while Larry was an extraordinary event marketing and marquee sponsorship expert, I was the cold-calling guerilla. We made a great team, and we got into places most marketing agencies would kill to get a seat in the boardroom.

Back to the problem with our mission of magazine marketing conquest…

With my dogged take-no-prisoners door knocking we found we could get through the hallowed halls of just about any major publisher to do our dog and pony show and win them over with our model that we were certain would acquire thousands of subscribers at events like Cochella or the Newport Jazz Festival or State Fairs. But a problem loomed large, and we sort of new it. Our model was flawed.

I won’t go into the details of why it was fraught with defects, I’ll just say it had “issues.” No, worse. It sucked. And the Circ Directors, one after another, let us know by the blank faces staring back at us and the unsigned contracts we stuffed in our briefcases as we hustled out the boardrooms on the 60th floor of the Time-Life building, the Chrysler building and other iconic skyscrapers.

The schedule I set for our magazine publishing blitz was punishing, usually 5 major meetings a day, running up and down 7th Ave, Broadway, up to Brant Park, down to Wall Street. I did it on purpose…it was part of the political angle of the mission—to show Larry that I could bury him, and Passage Events, with more opportunities and wins than they could imagine.

But after the first day, after the first five meetings with the blank stares, sweat dripping onto our blank note pads, my bravado swiftly turned into a deafcon bunker retreat mode.

Beyond our conundrum of an insane schedule and a lackluster product was the timing of our trip held over a four day period in August, the hottest weather of the summer for New York City. From the time Larry and I walked off the plane Monday night from the SeaTac to LaGuardia red-eye till we parted at Grand Central Station of Friday noon, we were dripping hot messes, to quote a favorite Tim Gunn saying.

Consider for example, if you’ve ever tried to hail a New York cab in a full suit on a scorching August afternoon, you get the picture. Now imagine you’re already 10 minutes late for your presentation because you got the wrong address. Then add another 5 minutes because of the insane 7th Avenue traffic. You walk off the elevator on the 60th floor, the receptionist greets you with a “Hello, gentlemen. Are you Mr. Herzog and Mr. Weil? They’re all waiting for you in the boardroom behind those double doors.”

To be continued…check back soon.

Selling Electric Bikes –The Bicycle Industry’s New 800 Pound Gorilla


The term “old habits die hard” has never rung truer than with the bicycle business, be it for the manufacturers, independent bike dealers (IBDs) or the cycling purists who ride them—especially in the United States. This clear and present reality first slapped me in the face several years ago when I gave a presentation at the infamous Interbike Convention in Las Vegas, North America’s largest annual bicycle gathering.

Prior to the convention I’d been hired by the International Light Electric Vehicle Association as a marketing strategist, to refresh the value proposition and key messages for the LEVA website ( and other member marketing materials. Once completed, I was given a plum opportunity to create the first-ever global marketing campaign to drag die-hard IBDs onto the shifting landscape of electric bike technology and embrace this new phenomenon on behalf of their customers—from Seattle to Singapore.

I was hardly a newcomer to the industry. My foray into what was considered a fringe bike segment began in 2008 when a former fitness equipment client of mine, Bill Hebb of Hebb Electric Bikes fame, commissioned me to a study of the emerging trend he’d witnessed first-hand in Asia. The question he wanted answered—with data to back it up— was simple: “Is it the right time to start an ebike company in the US?”

After my thorough conclusions led to a green light on Bill’s idea to start a US-based ebike company, we quickly set out in earnest to become—and succeeded in becoming—the #1 rated independent electric bike brand in the mid-priced category in 18 short months.

It was not easy work. I won’t get side-tracked and bore you with all the challenges we faced with Chinese manufacturing, shipping, customs, and quality control. Those were mere speed bumps in the road. The real Mount Everest challenge was selling the ebike category–and an untested brand–to the 4,000 IBDs in America, 90% of which had zero interest in carrying an electric bike on their showroom floor.

It took me the better part of a year– after many hundreds of phone calls, demo videos, and emails– to discover a deeply etched pattern of resistance carved into the psyche of the dealers we were targeting to join our distribution network. I heard the same belly-aching over and over. “Electric bikes are a fad, they’ll never catch on…ebikes are crappy and unreliable…they’re dangerous when it rains…they’re illegal in most cities…they’re too heavy.” But the one that proved the most daunting—the one that persists today, albeit in diminishing intensity, is this one: “Ebikes are for cheaters. Our customers like to get a workout and wouldn’t dare sit on an ebike for recreation OR commuting.”

I won’t dignify that last comment with a response because anyone who owns an ebike will tell you they get just as much exercise as they want, but with two exceptions—they either go way faster or way farther than their conventional bike-riding counterparts. Plus, they have twice the fun.

Even in Portland, bike capital of America, there was staunch resistance to ebikes. In fact, in the early 2010’s I found skepticism rampant, especially among the Chrome-branded, messenger bag-toting bike commuters who rode, rain or shine, to and from work and the corner coffee café. Like a modern-day John the Baptist crying in the wilds of the Northwest with a solemn declaration ”Get ye on an ebike,” I feared a day would come when I’d get stoned in one of Portland’s many elitist bike shops, or at the annual bike show where I was slated to speak:

Contrary to my fears, the presentation was a big success and paved the way for me to do additional work for LEVA and its ebike industry pioneer guru Ed Benjamin.

What I hear these days from manufacturers, distributors, dealers and their staff is clear and simple: “Our future is electric.” We’re now living in the bright, long-promised future for electric bikes.

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about how to successfully sell electric bikes to even the most skeptical prospects–including the shaved-leg, carbon-frame criterion riders and custom bike shop owners. Here’s what I’ve learned, the rules for engaging potential ebike dealer customers and their ebike riding consumer prospects…

1. Shake the dust off your feet when dealing with doubters and haters — My friend Seth Godin once taught me that some skeptical buyers who are immediately dismissive to a new idea will always say “no”. For years I beat my head against the wall trying to persuade naysayers to carry the ebike lines I represented for two of the nation’s top-rated brands. Over time I learned a vital lesson: Avoid “casting your pearls before swine.” With a few exceptions, I’ve  never looked back. Those two brands that earned their top-ranking in the ebike industry got there quickly, partially by me figuring out which dealers to recruit and which to avoid.

2. Go where you’re celebrated — Similarly, it’s also critical that you get unilateral buy-in from several key stakeholders in any traditional bike dealership–the owner/manager, the lead service tech, and the star sales person. Any of the three can be the one bad apple that spoils the whole bunch. When the star sales guy with massive quads, shaved legs and bike pants saunters up to you (if you’re making an unannounced sales call) and asks Can I help you with something?, be prepared for a bit of banter and bluster. Better yet, opt for #1 and move on quickly. Your time is too valuable, and there are too many other open-minded IBD teams out there who are looking to enter the ebike foray with a solid ebike line to add to their traditional bike brands.

3. Start with 10 bikes — The worst thing an IBD can do is commit half-heartedly to the ebike category. No, even worse is when the owner buys two ebikes, they never sell so he gives up on the category. Big mistake. If you’re going to take ebikes seriously you’ve got to make a whole-hearted commitment to 10 bikes on your floor (with at least three of those ebikes in the sub-$2,000 retail price point). Otherwise, you’re ebike footprint looks like an afterthought and will be buried with other inventory. Worst of all, if the prospect walks out of your store and into an ebike retailer like a Pedego-branded store, well, you probably just lost a sale.

4. Do demo events often — Every successful ebike retailer will tell you, you must get prospects on the bikes to get them engaged emotionally, and consequently appeal to their rational left-brain sensibilities when explaining the financial benefits of ebike commuting. They must go together —  the head and heart — when making an important purchase decision.

5. Give stuff away — I’ve never met a successful dealer who wasn’t willing to wiggle at least a tad on either pricing or accessories. It’s just part of the “art of the deal.” Everyone needs to know they got a great deal on a big purchase, especially when plunking down $2k on an ebike when the similar-looking non-electric slow-mo bike next to it is priced at $500. Prospects need to feel the rush, the fun of a demo ride, then pencil out the savings over a one or two year period, which then becomes a no-brainer.

6. Charge $125 per hour for service — My friend Mike Wolfe runs one of the largest ebike dealerships on the East coast. He charges service and maintenance fees similar to cars and motorcycles. Why? Because an ebike, once it’s properly integrated into a person’s lifestyle, becomes a car. And motorcycle.

7. Always upsell — It’s not about how much you can add to your average monthly ticket or boost of incremental sales. It’s about providing safety, utility and style solutions for the rider that could be worth another $300 in gross revenue per unit sold. Always think of the win for the customer, though, before your own financial gain.

8. Make customers for life — Do you know how much each new customer is worth to you? If you are thinking transactionally you’re probably thinking $1,000. The truth is that each customer could be worth $10,000 at a minimum in net revenue. Why? Because if you treat them with respect and dignity they will buy again…and again…for themselves, their family and friends. And they’ll send you referrals.

9. Have fun — No one knows more about how to make ebikes fun than Don DiConstanzo. As he constantly proclaims (like he did with me back at Interbike when we shared the podium together), “At Pedego we sell fun!” Maybe that philosophy is part of the reason Pedego is the # 1 electric bike brand in America.

10. Become a Pedego dealer —  By the way, if you aren’t an IBD but have toyed with the notion of opening your own ebike shop with a modest franchise investment, call Don. If you’re in a good local market and you’ve got a sensible head for business, hanging a bright neon Pedego sign in your shop window may be your quickest way to fulfilling that dream of yours, of owning your own lucrative business.

As most of us old-timers in the ebike business will attest, the US has for over a decade been woefully behind the Europeans and Asians in electric bike adoption. But as Ed Benjamin has so often stated — with fierce conviction (and data to back it up) — “In the past few years many dealers have finally discovered they can make good money on ebikes. And what manufacturers, distributors, dealers and their staff tell me is simple: “Our future is electric.”

Indeed, we’re now living in the bright, long-promised future for electric bikes.


SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully crafts brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at

On Direct Marketing, Jeff Bezos, Seth Godin And Electric Bikes

Hunting for new ideas on my eJoe Epik Sport Edition

Continued from the post “What I Taught Jeff Bezos That Forever Changed The Marketing World…”

Freeman was DM’s hero in the 70s and 80s much like Seth Godin is today’s pop marketing rockstar (Seth gave me permission to say this). He was, as I described in a previous blog, “a brilliant mad scientist in an ad man’s body” ( He relentlessly schooled me in the theory of left brain-right brain functioning and where the application of creative themes, copy and graphics fits into the proper sequence of developing record-breaking direct marketing campaigns. Which by the way, is at the very tail end.

You see, what Jeff Bezos and his team do for every marketing test, tactic or iteration of offers is “keep the main thing the main thing.” That is, knowing your audience like the back of your hand, then offering them things they need, want, or want to need. Let me explain…

What Freeman and Jeff have so skillfully taught me, and legions of assistants, teams and students, is that any successful direct marketing strategy must follow the 40-40-20 formula for success. Which in its simplest form can be summed up by saying that ‘EVERY successful direct marketing campaign must be comprised of three critical components–and their respective percentages–that will ultimately influence the outcome of a campaign’:

  • 40 % Audience—Selecting your target audience with such criteria as demographics and psycho-graphics, geography, etc.
  • 40 % Offer—A combo of who you are, what you’re selling, and the price or deal.
  • 20% Creative—Themes, copy, photos and graphics.

Unfortunately, when developing a campaign most inexperienced marketers will immediately jump to the creative—what the campaign will look like, a pretty picture, a slogan or even a style or voice that defines the brand. And they’ll spend 80% of their time, effort and budget on such a losing proposition. This is part of the basic math equation that most poorly trained folks get wrong. But they don’t seem to care, because this is the fun part—the touchy feely part—of marketing.

The other two components speak for themselves. For example, if you’re selling a great electric bike at a great price with a special discount to an avid bike enthusiast who’s just had heart surgery, you can hand-write the deal on a shopping bag and the person will buy. I know because I did it. Not once but twice.

If you’re a marketing professional, there’s only one take-away I’d like to leave with you. The next time you’re planning a campaign pretend the 10 hours it will take you for  planning is represented by ten one dollar bills. Spend the first four dollars on figuring out your audience. Spend the next four deciding on the most compelling offer. Once you’ve done that the two bucks you have left will be spend very quickly and with confidence. Why? Because you initially invested your budget and time on the right things in the right sequence.

By the way, if you want to get to your destination faster and funner–whether it’s direct marketing success or the corner coffee shop, hit me up. My side hustle, eJoe Electric Bikes, is where I personally apply the 40-40-20 rule as VP of Business Development. Check it out…just be prepared to see me in marketing-action if you sign up for the newsletter! We have some very compelling offers!

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at


On Big Game Hunting And Deal Making

Me with young 4 x 4 Rocky Mountain Elk rack bagged near the Cimarron River / Montrose Colorado

In my previous post I told the story of my exploits in the woodlands of upstate New York with my best friend and hunting-fishing-trapping partner Dale. As I explained, he gave me an Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of outdoor knowledge in my formative years as a woodsman.

Those scouting and hunting expeditions back then gave me the foundation for successful hunts to this day. As such, I’ve made it my mission to keep getting better—better at hunting, studying nuance, body language and the art of closing.

Here are 10 things I apply to nearly every target I’ve studied, stalked and closed–be it fish, foul, man or beast.

  1. Research thoroughly—If you don’t intimately know your target–what’s important to them and how they behave–you’ll never get close enough for a shot, nor even a glimpse.
  2. Be properly armed—Match the right firepower with your target. Too much and you’ll have carnage. Too little and it’ll slip away.
  3. Get comfortable—Whether standing, sitting or stalking make sure you’re physically and mentally comfortable. Pee before you climb a tree. Wear proper clothing. In a boardroom that means dress like your audience, test your presentation technology, practice your pitch, that sort of thing.
  4. Plan your shot in advance—Know where the idea kill zone is. Shoot for the heart. Always. But if there are bean counters in the room go for a head shot.
  5. Plan the second shot –Always be thinking of closing and what happens after the initial close. Think in advance of how your target will react, then be ready for round two.
  6. Don’t call attention to yourself— Stay low and stealthy–whitetail can spot and smell you literally a mile away. So can potential deal-makers who quickly become deal-breakers if you’re annoying or exhibit flashy behavior. For many hunters the North American whitetail is a more prized trophy animal than the majestic Rocky Mountain Elk. Why? Because they’re smarter and sportier. It’s like comparing a salmon to a steelhead. (I’d fish for steelhead any day over salmon for the same reason.)
  7. Be quiet—Everybody talks too much. It applies equally to people in boardrooms and game trails. Silence is golden in most cases. Take your turn to speak—to shoot—only when the time is right.
  8. Watch for movement—Body language of a deer or elk can tell you everything about what it’s going to do. So can the body language of deal-maker in a boardroom.
  9. Choose the ideal shot—Wait for it. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll know when the time is right. When it comes, aim and fire with 100% confidence. With the deal pitch, there’s incredible power in brevity.
  10. Wait–After your kill shot, don’t move. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open and see what happens. Don’t impulsively chase after your game just because they’re suddenly startled or hyper-react. Pause in completely silence, then cautiously backtrack or follow the trail of blood. If necessary, sneak up again and fire for the close.

Of all the misdeeds of the average hunter—or deal-maker—the one most are guilty of is talking too much. It’s the reason I mostly hunt alone. Most guys want to talk and hang out. You don’t do that when you hunt. You hunt in silence when you hunt, at least on the game trail or in the blind. Hold your tongue. Save the chatter for the ride home in the jeep or on horseback.

There’s a saying that goes something like “Even a fool sounds smart when he keeps his mouth shut.” That’s so true–in the woods, boardroom and even the bedroom.

My friend/social media buddy Charlie Peacock, one of Nashville’s most  distinguished singer/songwriter/producer triple-threats, says it so well in his Mississippi Delta root- inspired tune Death Trap >>> The tune’s takeaway is simple and applies to wherever the winds of promise and opportunity might lead you, personally or professionally:

“If a man can’t hold his tongue…he’ll be walking into a death trap.”

The other ancient saying that relates to this notion of being quiet and measuring your words with the right timing is this: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver”

I know precious little about heaven, almost nothing. But if there are streets of gold is some say, there may also be golden apples hanging from silver trees in the boundless orchards of heaven. That would be a good thing. Because where there are lush apple trees there are usually deer. And where there are deer, and you just happen to be carrying a rifle, then, if you’re a hunting enthusiast like me you’ll know you’re in heaven.

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent. Reach him at

Hunting Whitetail In Upstate New York


I didn’t want to make you crazy

I didn’t want to pitch a fit

I didn’t want to make you pack your bags and ready to call it quits

The devil’s got a hold on me

He’s hoping for a killing*

One of the most painful events of my adolescence came at age 15 when my parents yanked us by the roots from our comfortable New York bedroom community of northern New Jersey and transplanted us into the rural pastures of Upstate New York during my high school years. Three reasons were behind the move. One was my parents’ forthcoming retirement to the area Pop called home during his own youth (the Utica area). The second was his career as a Pan Am pilot that allowed him to deadhead from Hancock Field in Syracuse to New York’s JFK, where he’d depart on his monthly runs to London, Paris, Munich or Rome.

The biggest reason, however, was the increasing sleep deprivation my parents were experiencing due to my mounting deviant behavior. They were watching me slowly but gleefully glide down a slope covered with easy-access drugs and alcohol during my junior high years.

The move was torture on me. To the mostly backwater dairy farming and poultry producing kids who lived on farms in the rural Finger Lakes region where we made our new home in the country, I was the brash city slicker new kid, an alien from that terrible place called Manhattan. I dressed different, talked different, partied different, danced different, and sorely resented my parents tugging our deep 12-year roots from one of New York’s most comfortable “Mayberry-esque” bedroom communities–Glen Rock, in North Bergan County.

But as is often the case in life, my most heinous misfortune flip-flopped into God’s spectacular, perfect divine appointment. That divine appointment would come in the form of a brotherly bond of love and respect–a “David and Jonathan” friendship–that within a few short months catapulted me from social obscurity to one of the cool kids. It was if I’d gone from urban hipster to hokey country boy in the blink of an eye.

That divine friendship was with a boy named Dale DuBois with whom I initially became best buddies by clever mutual cheating in our Algebra 2 class—and who, next to the cool football and lacrosse stars like Bob, Brian, Roger, Bennett and Tony–was arguably the most popular kid in school.

Dale had the world by the tail…a raccoon tail (he never called it by its proper name, it was always a “coon”). In addition to being a strapping, ruggedly good-looking six foot four inch 260 pound tower of muscle, he was the only kid in the league who threw a 90 mile per hour fast ball with dead accuracy. And hit grand slams every so often, but only when he felt like it.

What Dale mostly felt like doing on weekends or while playing hooky was explore the woods of the Finger Lakes with me, his fresh-faced hunting understudy. It was that sacred connection, a mutual love for the outdoors that cemented an instant bond that lasted until Dale’s untimely death from lung cancer 25 years ago.

Though the Finger Lakes may have been a cultural wasteland for a boy like me who’d routinely hop trains and buses to New York’s Shea Stadium or Chinatown to buy illegal fireworks starting around age 13, it was an exciting landscape that held the promise of one thing I’d always dreamed of becoming—a deer hunter. As such, Dale made it his nearly daily mission to teach me about the wilds of the vast Finger Lakes woodlands, and in short order I became his de facto woodsman protégé and game porter.

Dale taught me everything about the woods. How to survive in a 10 degree blizzard with nothing more than a few pieces of warm waterproof clothing, snow shoes, a blanket for a lean-to and a pack of matches. He taught me to fish for pike and perch, bass, smelt, trout and even walleye through the ice. He schooled me on trapping raccoon, mink, fox and muskrat, hunting ducks and geese, pheasant and grouse. But we didn’t just hunt. We killed game. Lots of it. Dale was a born woodsman and hunter and had a knack for bagging trophy birds, fish and anything with fur.

But the most fun—and the object of my fantasy–was big game hunting. Every part of it–tracking, stalking, standing and occasionally shooting the Northeast’s most prized of all big game trophies—the wily whitetail.

I could go on about our many hunting expeditions and the excellent success (and luck) we had, but I’d rather share what Dale’s expert hunting skills and canny intuition taught me that has so profoundly affected how I do business: the need to keep quiet and still, which applies in spades to deal-making.

Almost all of our successful hunts over a period of five years (until I moved to Redondo Beach following my college graduation) took place on private land along the base of Song Mountain Ski Resort north of Preble and Little York. It was thick forest, the perfect place to be schooled in the art of patiently waiting, watching, waiting and watching. Sometimes for 30 minutes, sometimes for four hours. Sometimes in a tree stand near a watering hole, sometimes on a bluff, occasionally in a blind near a game trail. But always in stealth silence…watching and waiting.

To this day I credit Dale for instilling in me the discipline of listening for sounds, movement in the brush, and watching for a tail or ear flicker. Curiously, I’ve applied that same discipline to the art and science of national account sales and doing deals with all types of businesses–from big consumer brands to tech start ups. Listening, watching and waiting…it’s what often separates the men from the boys.

Here’s what hundreds of hours waiting for a shot at a trophy whitetail has taught me about patience and listening, and how I use it in deal-making situations…

Continued tomorrow…

*Lyrics from Death Trap by Charlie Peacock (further explanation to come) >>>

“What I Taught Jeff Bezos That Forever Changed The Marketing World”

Before we go further let’s establish two things. First, Jeff HAS changed the marketing world—not single-handedly but through that monster marketing portal called and by following several immutable principles of commerce. Second, though I’ve worked with some of his top people I don’t know him; I’ve never met him in fact. That’s not my headline quote.

But if I WERE Jeff’s marketing partner or consultant during the beta testing of I would have the legitimate bragging rights to such a claim in this headline.

Because Jeff learned and routinely practices the de facto formula for direct marketing success. What’s that? It’s the infamous 40-40-20 formula. Let me explain…

Before there was AI, big data analytics, geo-targeting, digital cookies and social media there was that thing called direct mail, the holy grail of direct marketing merely two decades ago.  As any marketer will tell you, however, direct mail is hardly the media darling it once was, but rather has become the underperforming ugly step-sister of today’s split-second digital marketing industry.

In its heyday there was a direct marketing advertising agency on the West coast that was pioneering the best practices of catalog marketing, frequency programs, membership programs to generate enormous LTVs (customer lifetime value) for their clients and space ads with bold 800 numbers pasted below bodacious LTOs (limited time offers). It was the nation’s largest independent DM agency (before it was sold for a fortune to Foote Cone and Belding), and the 10th largest agency of any kind West of the Mississippi. The name of the agency was a household word in the West—Smith-Hemmings-Gosden, or SHG for short.

As miraculous fortune would have it, at the age of 26 I found myself as the head of new business development for this venerable agency and, through baptism by fire, learned many of these classic tried-and-true marketing tools and quickly applied them with abandon for my clients—Bausch and Lomb, Sheraton Hotels, Western Bass Fishing Association, Princess Cruises, Safeco Insurance, JD Power and Associates and many other notable clients. More astonishing, I was one of the luckiest men in marketing serving as right-hand assistant to the legendary Freeman Gosden, Jr, one of the true forefathers of direct marketing who pioneered the principles that Jeff Bezos and his team now apply a million times a day.

So what is the 40-40-20 formula for success and why did Jeff stake his reputation and personal fortune on such a risky algorithm? More important, who was Freeman Gosden, Jr (we called him FG) and why was he such a brilliant marketer?

Continued on my latest post: On Direct Marketing, Jeff Bezos, Seth Godin and Electric Bikes



When Your Inner Voice Says “Let’s Roll”

Miracle surgeries performed aboard the Mercy Ship transform thousands of West Africans

Everyone has “ahh-haa” moments in their career

Those times of profound revelation. Times where you approach that rare intersection of fate and providence, face into the winds of promise, then whisper “I’m taking the narrow road. Heck yeah it’s dangerous but I’ll always have regrets if I don’t try.” That’s happened to me on more than one occasion.

In my early adult years it happened when I pulled myself away from friends and family immediately after college. I said a tearful goodbye to the comfortable yet stagnant pace of Upstate New York’s rust belt and headed West to stake my claim of fame and fortune in the buckle of innovation and creativity–Southern California. After setting down roots in Redondo Beach I never looked back.

A few years later I left a lucrative commercial sales career to serve under the mentorship of Freeman Gosden, Jr and Bob Hemmings, two of modern direct market’s most accomplished pioneers. My curious intuition told me direct mail would soon become the forerunner of digital interactive marketing. My hunch paid off.

My biggest headfirst dive into the dark unknown, however, was enlisting in the service of Mercy Ships, the faith-based fleet of hospital ships that is redefining volunteerism and the modern short-term missions movement on a global scale.

Working with children in a remote village outside Dakkar, Senegal.

At the time it seemed like a mistake. During most of my eight years with Mercy Ships my family and professional friends kept bashing me with words like…“That’s just a dumb idea. Why would you ditch a promising career path to work for free for a religious order?”

What they didn’t know (nor did I at the time) was that there’s no such thing as a “promising” career path. I learned–and keep learning–that weird stuff happens to you. And by you. Neither did they understand I never worked a day of those eight years for free. What I got in return for my service was international travel and a million dollar education in global fundraising and public relations of the highest order–worth more than an MBA at Cornell and an unlimited travel pass at ClubMed. And a cool extended family on every continent.

Yes I was a volunteer. Yes our income was often cobbled together–month to month…hand to mouth–by sacrificial donations from friends, family, churches and businesses. But I discovered almost daily that you can never out-give the God who put you on this earth. That’s certainly been my story.

Fundraising in port cities around the nation with Mercy Ships founder and CEO Don Stephens

After helping to build a global fundraising, public relations and recruiting infrastructure (much of it still remains) I made yet another big move. This time heeding the call of the wild to one of the most ruggedly beautiful, pristine corners of the globe–the North Kitsap Peninsula, west of Seattle’s Puget Sound.

Ironically, I’ve discovered my eight years with Mercy Ships were not the end of my missionary exploits. Rather, that season of life was preparation for an equally important and altruistic mission: helping businesses protect their most important assets with robust commercial security services (my day job with ADT Commercial Division); and, helping sports and entertainment professionals prosper through innovative, cost-effective marketing strategies that bond their brands to customers and fans for life.

We all have stories of standing at a crossroads. More will confront us in the future. Will we ignore that still, small inner voice that says “This is the way, it’s hard and risky but you can’t afford not to try it?”

Before you answer, consider the mountain of data collected from interviews with senior citizens who were asked “What would you do differently if you could live your life over?” Nearly all of them said the same thing. “I would take more risks.”

So, the question…Are you approaching a crossroads?

Here are a few things I’ve learned from some of the seismic changes I’ve made in my life, and particularly my career.

  1. Listen to that inner voice. You won’t hear it very well if you don’t pay attention to its soft whisper. Get away for a half-day, frequently if necessary. By yourself. Take a few pieces of paper or notebook and a pen, get into a comfortable quiet place and listen patiently. Pray. Listen to music. Then start taking notes. Do whatever will surface your subtle inclinations from deep within.
  2. Talk to trusted peers. Share your hopes and dreams with them, but only those people you can trust to support and love you unconditionally–and give you tough love in return if your ideas are too off the wall.
  3. Do the research. Get busy learning about the opportunity that awaits. Keep in mind we’re talking mostly about career changes here, but it can also apply to hobbies, volunteer work, a sabbatical, travel, etc.
  4. Get your affairs in order. That especially includes your finances. Far too many folks approach big life changes without the financial resources to carry them through the transition period. On the other hand, financial shortages can often be the very catalyst to get you in motion.
  5. Think long-term. Remember that life is an unending journey. Over a lifetime of risky career experiments I’ve learned that there are no mistakes if you follow the voice and will of God. In the same way I’ve learned you can never out-give God, I’ve also learned that all things work together for good if you love your Creator and are trying to follow the path carefully set before you.
  6. Enjoy the ride. When you jump into the deep, fast moving current of opportunity, savor the exhilarating experience of trusting your faith when conventional wisdom runs counter. It won’t always be a smooth ride–sometime it’ll be anything but. But in the end you can look back and say “I did it.”

Phil Herzog is a senior consultant for ADT’s Commercial Division and moonlights as a sports and entertainment marketing executive as CEO of SmoothStone Reach him at

Why Don’t Men Suit Up?

I’ve lived in all four corners of the nation–New York, Miami, LA, Dallas, and now Seattle. I’ve spent most of my adult life in the advertising agency world, then a few years as a missionary for global charity Mercy Ships. Then back to commercial sales where I’ve landed once again. With all the traveling, meetings, conventions and business lunches and parties I’ve seen a lot.

After 30 years in business one of the things that still perplexes me terribly is the notion that most men just don’t care how they dress for business. Most men just don’t care what they look like at the office, job site or even at a client’s business–and rather focus on perfecting their technical skills and head game. But in the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I say “Big Mistake.”

I’ve lived in Seattle since 2001. I’m in the security business by day, but occasionally I keep my side hustle afloat in the entertainment space working with sports and entertainment clients. Let’s just say it keeps my day job fresh.

I still keep a shared-space office at the Pioneer Collective at King and First which to me is worth a million dollars. Why? Because it gets — and keeps — me close to the culture, to the Seattle arts and entertainment and business scene. And it keeps my eyes on the fashion scene (what little there is in Seattle as compared to New York).

Here’s the simple truth about Seattle men’s fashion. It exists, yes. But it’s got its roots in the tech world–t-shirts, jeans and black square-toed shoes. As such, these guys are seldom taken seriously when venturing out into the big venture capital world, or consumer brand marketing space, or sports marketing or PR or whatever. The simple truth is that sloppy-dressed guys miss out on big deal-making, favors and even attention and respect by their peers simply because their self-image projects, well, a poor self image. Or worse, an “I don’t care how I look” image.

I love watches. Mostly because they are one of the few pieces of jewelry that makes me feel comfortable and “myself” in various settings (plus I’m always trying to keep track of my time). I have four of them, three pictured above–each with a different mission. One tells time in a business setting; one tells time in the woods; one tells time at dates or parties; one is a secret weapon.

I could write a book on how Seattle men could up their game with an ever-so-slightly elevated fashion sensibility. But I’ll save that for another post.

For now, if you’re a guy — for starters — go out and buy yourself a “fashion” watch and be amazed how that outer statement changes your inner vibe. If you’re a woman looking for the ultimate Valentine’s gift for your honey, go out and buy him a stainless steel watch or even a Timex Expedition (if you spend more than $50 for any watch it’s too much…guys lose and break stuff). It will make you one lucky girl. And if you buy him a Rolex (get a fake one online from Japan for less than $100 that keeps better time than the real McKoy) I guarantee you’ll get very lucky with your man on February 14.

Phil Herzog is a senior consultant for ADT’s ICI Division and moonlights as a sports and entertainment marketing executive as CEO of SmoothStone Reach him at


Taming the Black Dog of the Northwest

Scare crow and a yellow moon. Pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town. King Harvest has surely come (The Band)

A cool wind is blowing, smooth and soft this morning in the Pacific Northwest. Brown, yellow, red, and orange leaves have blanketed my front yard. Glancing through my bedroom window I awaken to a dark fog. But it’s peaceful. Suddenly, I realize it’s here – my favorite season — filled with the hope and promise of “glad tidings of comfort and joy”–gatherings with family and friends, fires in the fireplace and gobs of rich, buttery food.

But for those of us living here in the Northwest, a feint shadow crouches patiently in the corner of our minds. It’s a dark invasive spirit that will soon fill the air, daring to press against anyone without ample courage or fortitude to buffet its cold, biting headwinds – the menacing double threat of depression and anxiety.

In the mental health profession this illness of chronic depression (often accompanied by cycles of anxiety) is referred to as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Winston Churchill called his depressive episodes the “Black Dog,” a gnawing predator that nipped at his ankles for most of his adult life. One famous journalist calls it “living in a cold, heavy rain-drenched suit.”

Whatever the medical community calls it — no matter how pervasive among populations of Seattle, Poulsbo, or Pittsburgh — it’s a menace that will threaten many of us this season, more likely around mid-December when the pressures, commitments and expectations of Christmas reach their peak.

My family doctor in Poulsbo – with whom I visit every 6 months to personally keep the Black Dog at bay — calls depression our society’s most pressing pandemic. He tells me that “70% of his patients suffer from one of these illnesses – or both at any given time.” Another doctor friend from Seattle confirms that “No fewer than 50% of Pacific Northwest adults are (or will be) on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

But rather than dispense dire warnings of personal meltdowns, suicidal ideation or crippling isolation, I’ve got good news – news about the ways we can not only cope with the onslaught of seasonal, chronic or clinical depression – but stand tall while leaning into its most blusterous mental headwinds. And to be an advocate and encourager for our loved ones who may soon be prime targets of these invading spirits.

In the next few weeks I’m going to share a range of tips and tools to optimize your mental health. Think of it as a modest insurance policy to help you experience a bright and cheery holiday season.

I won’t spend time educating or spewing pop psychology sound bytes or advice on medication, diet or exercise (even though they’re important for emotional wellness), or even share proven behavioral therapy practices. Those tools, I believe, are best offered by licensed professionals.

Rather, my tips and tools are intended to be simple and sensible, understandable, and relatively easy to apply, one at a time – which can offer the glimmer of hope to get your mojo back.

“50% of Pacific Northwest adults will be on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

Before we start, please know this — that my audience is you – a fellow sojourner seeking a personal path of mental and emotional wholeness in our confused, frenzied culture. But the audience is also me, so I’m writing to remind myself of the proven ways I’ve used these tips to help me be my best during Seattle’s doldrums winter — so that my inner man can exercise good, wholesome judgement and behavior that’ll bless my family, friends, and colleagues.

Easy Success To Start Your Day

Make Your Bed – In the words of my friend Tim Ferriss, when you ‘win the morning, you win the day.’ Making your bed makes you an instant success — first thing. It’s a small task but has more emotional benefits than you can imagine. If you doubt the value of making your bed in the morning, watch this 2-minute video:

Make A Plan – Failing to plan your day is planning to fail your day. Take out a piece of paper, write a list of 5 or so things you’d like to accomplish today. Then rank them by priority or chronological order. If you spend more than 60 seconds on the list and prioritizing, it’s too much time. My list is always super simple, especially when I’m in a funk: some phone calls and emails, walk the dog, a meeting, preparing dinner, whatever. These small things may not seem like a big deal to accomplish, but when you’re in the clutches of a deep depression finishing even the most rudimentary task — like dusting your bedroom — seems akin to painting the next Mona Lisa.

Meditate – Connect with your Higher Power, whomever that is, in whatever way works for you. He/she is the One who will give you the strength, courage and mindfulness to make it through at least to the noon hour. Personally, my daily routine starts with 5 or 10 minutes of Bible reading (or similar spiritual content) followed by a few short minutes of prayer. Sometimes, when I have extra time, I’ll listen to soft classical music on King.FM or stream tunes from my favorite solo pianists Ed Kerr, Paul Cardall or David Lantz.

Remember the hilarious movie “What About Bob” that was so popular in the early 90s? In the movie Richard Dreyfuss’s character (a famous therapist) wrote a book called “Baby Steps.” Well, like the movie’s plot line, the concept of “baby steps” to begin your journey to emotional wellness is no laughing matter. To win the day you must begin engaging in simple, easy-repeat rituals. Baby steps. Once accomplished — first thing in the morning — you can tackle more arduous chores and responsibilities later in the day.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more simple tips to tame depression including short daily walks, ongoing contact with your ESP (Emotional Support Partner) and doing a simple but profoundly fulfilling task…for a loved one.

I’ll leave you with a link to some great chill music I listened to this morning to start my day:

*Lead sentence phrase is taken from the poem “Christmas Eve”

This is the first blog post of Skipping Stones–The Personal Blog of Phil Herzog

SmoothStone Foundation Welcomes New Charity Clients To Growing Nonprofit Marketing Practice

August 24, 2017

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Herzog, CEO—360.621.2753 or

Two new nonprofit clients have signed on to SmoothStone’s growing roster of category leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are dramatically impacting the forgotten poor, disenfranchised and marginalized members of society. Under the banner of SmoothStone Educational Foundation (a division of SmoothStone Partners), these mission organizations—YWAM Ships Kona and Delilah’s Point Hope–are utilizing SmoothStone’s marketing services including strategic planning, corporate sponsorship recruitment, new donor acquisition and long-term donor optimization primarily through digital platforms and high-touch events.

An additional new client—Training Resources, Inc—provides cutting edge music education resources to mobilize the modern church through worship music conferences and training resources.

“Giving back to society, whether it be a neighborhood in Seattle or a West African village, is just something we at SmoothStone Arts and Entertainment feel compelled to do as a company. Two of these charities share an important common denominator—they provide a holistic and fully integrated approach to sustainable community development. They empower communities and dramatically improve the quality of life for individuals, families and entire villages.

“It’s so inspiring to experience the transformation first-hand. Every time I visit the work of our charity clients it changes my life and reminds me how fortunate we are as Americans. What a blessing it is to give back and make a difference—for a mother caring for a sick child, a husband and father seeking job-training to provide for his family, or adolescents learning basic geography, English and math” said SmoothStone CEO Phil Herzog.

YWAM Ships Kona ( operates vessels that target disadvantaged islands and isolated, hard to reach communities accessible only via waterways. No airports or docks mean these villages can only be reached via shallow draft vessels. All communities are served with essential medical and dental care, training and a broad range of other support services designed to meet the unique needs of individual locations and people. The parent organization, YWAM (Youth With A Mission) is a worldwide Christian movement operating in over 180 countries.

Point Hope ( is a nonprofit charity founded by radio host Delilah, the world’s most listened to female radio host. The organization has established a large sustainable presence in West Africa endeavoring to care for widows and orphans and build a fully integrated, holistic village managed by and for its residents. Point Hope is currently expanding its footprint by establishing other Point Hope villages throughout West Africa, while simultaneously enlarging its Points of Hope community service outreaches across America.

Training Resources, Inc. ( is led by Tom Kraeuter, a gifted Bible teacher, prolific author, conference speaker, worship leader and genuinely funny guy. Tom has taught seminars and conferences for more than 30 years. Through a variety of means, including one-on-one and group consultations and materials designed for worship leaders — books, videos, articles and podcasts — Tom and his team provide scripturally sound, practical tools for life and ministry for leaders and musicians in churches around the world.

About SmoothStone Partners

SmoothStone Partners is a business development firm that carefully builds brands in the sports, entertainment and lifestyle space. SmoothStone Entertainment’s Talent Division is led by Phil Herzog who provides marketing and social media support to recording artists, entertainers, fine art and photography talent.

SmoothStone’s most recent endeavor, SmoothStone Foundation, seeks to support selective, high-impact charities through innovative digital marketing. As a support agency to nonprofits, SmoothStone partners with low-cost, high-impact off-the-shelf creative, marketing and database solutions with digital services such as Salesforce – Pardot, WordPress and GoDaddy to put digital marketing campaigns and analytics into the hands of nonprofits to chart profitable ROI fundraising courses wherever possible.