People can never figure out who I am or what I do for a living. My first answer is, "I'm still trying to figure that one out myself." However, I decided to include it on my blog so that at least it's out there, if someone's interested. So, for the two of you who actually read this blog:
Born in Bethlehem, PA. Grew up in sleepy, affluent Westport, CT. It’s a good place to be from. …“From” being the operative word. Just to be clear: my family was never affluent, not even in the best of times.
BA William & Mary, 1991 – Philosophy major, Psychology minor. I actually had a double major in girls and drinking, with a swimming minor.
1990-91 – Surfed full-time, bartended & waited tables part-time in CA. (It was a paperwork snafu that had me graduating a year after I left campus. I was surfing in Spain when I got the news that I might not graduate at all! We’ll save that story for another time).
1991-92 – Sales, recruiting, & management Equinox International (multi-level marketing). Developed downline of over 100 members. Thank God I didn’t make enough to keep at it!
1993-94 – Other sales positions, calling mostly on large, really, really wealthy real estate developers, institutional investors, and property management firms. From all this, I thought I hated sales; turns out, I merely hate selling the wrong things. Selling the right product can be an absolute blast!
1994-96 – Returned to bartending & waiting to pay the bills until I figured out my next step. Took numerous writing courses, wrote a few bad books and one, Powder Burn, that I’m very proud of – someday I’ll get around to publishing it. Married Jane 1996. This remains the wisest decision I’ve ever made. Jane rocks.
1997-2001 – Taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at a world-class private language school (4 years), then worked 6 months as director of a new school started by a former colleague (now defunct - the school, that is. Tim is doing well). Boston, London, and Malta are the three global centers for the private ESL industry. What luck that I fell into this career in Boston!
2001 – Started “Ted’s English School” (now Coiné Language School) in our living room. Made $10 the first month. About 2 years ago, we valued the school at $10 million. On a bad day, I might sell it for $100, but those are few now that I’m 900 miles away from daily operations. I’ve backed off selling it 3 times and counting. As an aside: this company has billion-dollar potential. EF, a privately owned competitor with an inferior product, is a $1 billion company and growing fast. I needed some time off, though. One of my mottos is, “If it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.” Well, I wasn’t having fun. Meanwhile, my speaking career was taking off…
2005 – Wrote my first published book, Five-Star Customer Service. Began traveling extensively, giving one-day workshops and keynote speeches, primarily to small-medium business owners ($5-20 million) and C-level executives of larger enterprises (targeting the Fortune 100). Well-paid speakers are treated somewhat like rock-stars, which is addictive. Traveling from my family? I’m not as crazy about that, so I’ve cut back dramatically in the last year. There are many things in this life more important than money.
2006 – Moved to Naples. Unquestionably the second-best decision I have ever made. Established the Coiné Foundation (http://www.coinefoundation.org/) two weeks later, while still living in Mom’s condo.
2007 – Wrote Spoil ’Em Rotten! with Jane, also about customer service, corporate culture, and leadership. Doubled one-day fee to $10,000.
2007 – established http://www.naplessocialaction.org/ with Jane and Michael Junkroski, who has since become a close personal friend. Jane’s take? “Ted, this is the best thing you’ve ever done.” Also gathered the nucleus to create The Naples Institute (“Fighting for social justice!” http://www.institutenaples.org/), a think tank that I see as our legacy – 100 years from now, that is what we will all be remembered for. What a talented group we’ve gathered: Rita & Bernie Turner, Jim Fisher, Gene Landrum, Jeanmarie Hendry, Michael, Ilene Leff, and me! (5 of the 8 principals are professional business consultants, so we’ve also formed NI Access, the for-profit consulting sister entity of The Naples Institute.)
2007/08 – Joined the board of Waveplace Foundation (http://www.waveplace.org/), based in PA, to help bring OLPC laptop computers (http://www.laptop.org/) and education to the poorest children in the world, starting in South Florida and the Caribbean.
2008 – Still forming Laptop South Florida (LSF) with the help of my friend John Lawson at the One-by-One Leadership Foundation. LSF will be the local face of Waveplace. We’re off to a great start, with two pilots starting up in Immokalee on June 9th.
2008 – Co-founded NIA Venture Group, LLC with partner Gene Landrum (filed with the state & IRS today, May 13). Banyana/WHS is our first project – Gene is chairman of the board, I also serve on the board; Skip Muller is the CEO and founder. Mum’s the word right now, but it is destined to be a household name in a year or two.
Coiné Foundation (in sleep mode at present)
Naples Social Action (More of less my full-time job for the past year)
Cancer Alliance of Naples
Laptop South Florida
Committees – I can’t even remember! Let’s just say, I’ve been pretty busy in the past year or so.