This Is My Family

family 1

Not long ago, I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend that you do. Chances are, you won’t truly understand it. But, hopefully, it will leave a mark on your memory, that causes you to remember singular images and phrases, as I did.

I won’t say much about it, other than to say the narrative device is that of a father’s extended letter to his son.

What I will mention is the depiction of the Dream that Coates writes about, as a central construct of the book. There are people (the “Dreamers”) who live their lives in total unquestioned, unthinking immersion in the Dream.

coates bookThen there are people who live their lives outside the Dream, or perhaps better said: excluded from the Dream. Perhaps, even better, threats to the Dream.

Shortly after I read the book, I had a dream inspired by the book. I dreamed that I awoke one morning to find that every black person was white and every white person was black.

As a newly transformed black man, living in Austin, you can imagine the scene I encountered going to work that day. Overnight, downtown Austin was transformed into a city that much more resembled downtown Atlanta or Memphis.

More remarkable was how I was treated, in my dream. All of a sudden, I felt an attitude that was colder, less helpful, more suspicious towards me. People took a slightly wider berth walking by me on the street.

Servers seemed a little slower to ask me for my order or if I needed help at the store. Was I just imagining it, or was this overnight change in how I felt real?

And then, I began to think about who I was…nothing about me had changed — I was the same person in every way — except that my skin was now black. My skin pigment was darker >> that was it!

Yet, as my dream leaped ahead (as REM-sleep dreams are wont to do), I began to experience discrimination, from the petty (name calling) to the significant, like being denied job interviews, passed over for leadership roles, getting fewer financial and VIP privileges than my white peers.

family 2

And, as I looked ahead – and backwards – I saw the accumulation of this discrimination across generations of my family. From the non-violent injustice of exclusion from schools, communities, and social groups, to the violence of confrontation, struggle, and crime.

Often, the violence was wrought by the desperate and those lost of hope of the same color skin as their closest neighbors, because they were nearest and easiest to rob.

And, the whole picture seemed so ridiculous to me. It seemed such a preposterous thing — that the color of one’s skin was the thing that triggered this generations-long, no, this millennia-long dividing of the powerful and the powerless.

It made no sense; there was no justification. Logic yes, in a perverse way, as a contest to get and keep power. But justice — as represented by life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the promise that all people are created equal — no.

And, in my dream, I finally began to develop a new awareness of the profound, unholy, and completely immoral unfairness of it all. This new, internal knowledge of what others deemed my “place” in life, and that of my family’s, was totally, comprehensively unacceptable.

I awoke and shared my dream with Rebecca. And, I thought about the Dream. And, I thought about members of my family who live in the Dream — both the black and white members of my family.

family 3Because, you see, the photos in this post are members of my family — my real family. They are my nephews, nieces, brothers, and cousins through marriage.

They are Larry, Lindsey, Shani, Logan, Harper, Ryan, Lori, Maya, and more!

They are smart, talented, strong, beautiful, funny, hard-working, loyal, trustworthy, silly and fun!

I love them and am thankful to be in the same family together.

I know that no amount of dreaming on my part, nor clearing away the real life miasma of the Dream that Coates writes of, can ever help me fully comprehend a life of fundamental unfairness.

Of being born the wrong color…or the wrong caste, tribe, gender, nationality — or any other irrational, inequitable “wrong” that absolutely lacks any connection to the true, the holy, the righteous.

So, I’ll leave you with this one question. Ask yourself: “Who is my family?”

You Can Measure Brand Value

I’ve written about the value of branding before and why it matters. One way to assess the value of a brand is measuring its consumer-based brand equity, or CBBE.

By definition, CBBE is the differential effect that brand knowledge has on consumer response to the marketing (specifically, the promotion) of that brand. The figure illustrates this differential effect.

CBBE-exampleLet’s say your competitor is Brand A and you are Brand B. Then, let’s say that you have very closely competing products, in terms of key functions and features that are important to customers.

Finally, let’s say you both spend approximately the same amount on promotion for your respective products, to educate and motivate customers to buy them.

All things being equal, the larger result of purchases of your product (Brand B) versus your competitor’s (Brand A) – as represented by the dollar signs “$$$” – is the measure of CBBE.

In short, you could say that your brand equity is the aggregate of that differential effect, on an annualized basis.

Or, in other words:

  • IF you run four major campaigns during the year,
  • AND sell an average of $250,000 more than your competitor each campaign,
  • AND spend roughly the same amount on promotion as they do,
  • AND use approximately the same techniques (i.e., couponing, PR, etc.),
  • THEN your CBBE is $1M or more, per year.

That’s one way that branding delivers value to your business.

Here’s another…

Brand value is a significant contributor to the intangible assets, specifically, what is known as goodwill, of a company.

When you look at a balance sheet, the major components include Assets, Liabilities, and what people refer to as Owner’s Equity. Assets include tangible assets (like cash, bonds, etc.) and intangible assets. Goodwill is a key intangible asset.

CBBE-balance sheet

In accounting terms, when a company is acquired, goodwill amounts to the excess of the “purchase consideration” (the money paid to purchase the asset or business) over the total value of the assets and liabilities. It is classified as an intangible asset on the balance sheet, since it can neither be seen nor touched.

Over the past several decades, intangible assets generally – and goodwill, specifically! – have represented an increasing percentage of acquisition costs…largely, many would say, due to the growing added value that effective branding represents to a firm.

In our rapidly evolving mobile/social/location-based digital economy, there are evermore services for helping companies increase their CBBE.


For example, new services like HYPR Brands and Narativ that provide access to large networks of brand ambassadors — who themselves are key influencers in specific categories — are becoming powerful allies to brand building.

For marketers, the key is to be committed to measuring your CBBE and be bold about arguing the business case for your brand-building programs, when it comes to budget allocation and strategic initiatives for the company.

You are the stewards for one of the most valuable assets and powerful tools that your company has in its quest to lead your market segment. Don’t forget that!

Ebook to Softback: The Digest for Students of Entrepreneurship

SBF 2016-2I’m excited to announce that a revised and updated 2016 edition of the Naturally Caffeinated ebook is now available for download.

Further, the ebook is now a “pbook” — a “physical” book, printed as a softback, that you can buy for $10.

For an author-signed copy, send me an email using my Contact page. I’ll send you a link to a secure Paypal page.

A lot has happened since the 1st edition of the ebook was published a year ago.

May 2015

The ebook, sub-titled “Addicted to Entrepreneurship,” was first made available for download, with a new, dedicated Naturally Caffeinated blog for communicating updates, events and more.

We were grateful for the early support and reviews like these:

“I’m flattered to be included. I do wish Steve tremendous success with both the book and the Community!” -Guy Kawasaki, Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Evangelist 

“Your Ebook is now in my iBooks! Awesome pieces of advice!! So many are hard learned.” -Dr. Steve Elmore, Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and Head of Customer Success, Convo, Inc.

“…very well written and seems to hit all the high points of the subject. I applaud your effort and am sure this will be useful to many, many readers.” -Ben Dyer, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, The University of Texas at Austin, Cockrell School of Engineering

“A refreshing and effective guide to help jump-start your new venture.” -Dr. Lynette Reed, Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) and Author, Researcher, Consultant

June 2015

The Community Edition of the ebook was launched, in collaboration with the online publisher, Weeva.

A “pay it forward” project from the beginning, the book’s goal was always two-fold:

  1. to provide lessons learned and stories of inspiration by experienced entrepreneurs for students of entrepreneurship and first-time founders
  2. to donate any proceeds from books sales and other fund-raising raised to programs providing entrepreneurial experiences and education among teenagers

nc-authorsBy soliciting men and women founders from around Austin and the world, we were able to capture the experiences and stories of more than 70 entrepreneurs, with insights in every aspect of new ventures.

July 2015

We agreed to publish two version of a hard back edition of Naturally Caffeinated, combining the original ebook content and the contributions from guest entrepreneurs like Jimmy Treybig, Jan Ryan, Admiral Bobby Inman, Kerry Tate, and many many more!

This edition is available for purchase on Amazon and at the Weeva online book store, where you can also download an excerpt from the hard back edition.


We announced that TEDxYouth@Austin – the country’s largest licensed TEDx event focused on young people – would be the first recipient of proceeds raised with the book.


PwC, Bridgepoint Consulting, Concepture, and Powershift Group hosted the Naturally Caffeinated: Community Edition launch party at Powershift’s offices, two blocks west of the Capital.

Q4 2015

NC-suzi sosa LinkedIN postLots of promotion and sales of the hard back book, including a great series written by Weeva, highlighting a variety of contributors’ posts, like this one by Suzi Sosa – Are There Gender Differences Holding Women Entrepreneurs Back? and this one – Would You Trade Places with Me? by Greg Businelle.

January 2016

Presentation of funds raised through Naturally Caffeinated to TEDxYouth, from on-stage at the Paramount Theater, during The Austin Forum’s January monthly meeting.


TEDxYouth@Austin 2016 was held at Westlake High School in Austin.


We began discussing plans for revisions to the ebook edition of Naturally Caffeinated, along with a limited run of printed, softback copies of the book for sale.


WIT kidsWe announced that WIT – short for “Doing Whatever It Takes” – would be the second recipient of proceeds raised with the book.


We debut the revised and updated ebook, as well as The Digest, at a series of events, including the Small Business Festival, featured in the photo at the beginning of this post.

All Good Things: SXSW Will Die Someday and So Will You

iris plans home page

Let’s talk about dying. Like being born, we all die.

I, for one, don’t expect this fact will change anytime soon, despite what Ray Kurzweil and others hope.

That’s why I’m eager to tell you about Iris Plans, a new startup that is officially launching at SXSW Interactive 2016, although it’s founding team have been working on the venture since late 2015. I’m an active advisor for the company.

The team has developed a way to combine a variety of technologies and services to make a highly tailored form of personalized medicine — known as Advance Care Planning (ACP) — to nearly everyone in the US who would want it, no matter where they are located or when they are available.

The best way to understand a real life situation for ACP may be to watch the video (produced and directed by my son, Andrew Guengerich).


UT-Austin CAET Gives Us Some STEAM

UT Ctr for Art and Ent Tech (CAET)I attended the launch event for UT-Austin’s Center for Arts & Entertainment Technology this evening. The Center (or CAET) is a new program of the College of Fine Arts.

As Dean of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster explained, it’s been a few years in the making. But, now that it’s here, the CAET figures to quickly become a significant magnet for UT-Austin’s Fine Arts school.

Why? Because, the CAET’s new Bachelor of Science degree in Arts & Entertainment is the quintessential Gen Z major.

It is the true expression of STEAM – Science Technology Engineering & Math (or STEM) education, with the fundamental integration of Arts, be it performing, visual, digital, or more.

Congratulations to Dean Dempster, Bruce Pennycook (the CAET Director), long-time Austin colleague Paul Toprac (Assoc Dir of Game Design & Dev at UT-Austin), and all of the other faculty and staff for the program.

I, for one, look forward to vetting some of the first crop of BS in AET students, in 2017 and 2018, for internships with our new ventures…the CAET program is fine-tuned to produce future great product, tech strategy, and creative directors, ready to unleash some innovation on the world – can’t wait!