Sarasota: The Best Place to Live in Florida

US News & World Report ranked Sarasota #21 on its list of the Best Places to Live in the United States. Citing our climate, beaches, and culture, the index placed Sarasota higher than the other Florida cities on the top 100 list, with Tampa coming in at 35 and Orlando at 40.

While it’s great to see publications recognize our “little big city” in this way, maybe it would be better to keep us a secret? Already, our “net migration” is at a 10. We’re feeling it in the traffic!

Join me at WordCamp Miami 2017

Now that it’s been officially announced, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a discussion about “Getting Real Business Results from Your Content Marketing Efforts” at WordCamp Miami!

The event runs March 24-26 (Friday through Sunday) at Florida International University in Miami. The Miami gathering is one of the longest-running and most well-respected events in the WordCamp series, and it’s an honor to be invited to participate.

Last year, the weekend was outstanding, and my lovely wife, Jill, and I are truly looking forward to another spectacular time in South Florida!

Sarasota Named 2014 Google “eCity” for Florida

Screenshot: Google Recognizes Sarasota as its 2014 eCity for Florida
Screenshot: Google Recognizes Sarasota as its 2014 eCity for Florida
Screenshot: Google Recognizes Sarasota as its 2014 eCity for Florida

This “big little city” that we call home and affectionately refer to as “Paradise” has been recognized by Google for having the, “strongest online business community,” in the State of Florida.

The award represents Google’s belief that businesses in Sarasota are embracing new technology to find and connect with customers.

Google uses its own data, including Search, ad revenue (both fees paid to Google by advertisers and fees paid by Google to publishers), and Ad Grants (provided by Google to non-profits) to estimate the economic impact of Google on each area. This forms the basis of its determination that local businesses are embracing technology.

ABC 7 reported on the reactions from some local businesses following a ceremony yesterday with the Mayor and City Manager.

The Herald-Tribune apparently also reported on the award, but their absurd paywall prevents us from accessing the article, so we won’t bother to link to it.

Congratulations to all of our local businesses who have endeavored to build out a presence online, use social media and other tools, and effectively generate a return on investment with digital advertising tools.

This is one more reason we love this city!

Florida’s Economic Recovery Ranked #6 In Nation

Business Insider ranked the 50 states based upon various—arguably arbitrary—factors and placed Florida in the number 6 position.

Notably, the report cited an 8.9% increase in statewide housing prices (measured from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014), a 3.1% bump in payroll jobs (June 2014 vs. June 2013) and a higher-than average growth in the state’s working-age population.

Ahead of Florida in Business Insider’s rankings: Colorado, California, Texas, Arizona, and Utah.

The team responsible for the report, which was published August 4, 2014, posted separately about their methodologies.

Wings N Things: My Favorite Meal

Just a little visual to help you start salivating. For the record, these are not from Wings N Things.Photo: Elkeflorida via BigStock
Just a little visual to help you start salivating. For the record, these are not from Wings N Things.
Photo: Elkeflorida via BigStock

Note: Recently, I was assigned the task of writing about my favorite meal for a course I am taking. I was so hungry when I finished, I thought I would share.

My favorite meal consists of buffalo chicken wings with curly fries, carrot and celery sticks with ranch dressing, fried cheese cubes with cherry mustard sauce, and a nice cold beer of some imported variety.

If you’ve never tried this particular combination of healthy foods (and yes, I jest here about the healthfulness of this meal), you’re missing out one of the most delectable sensations of taste to ever cross the human palate. In particular, this meal should be enjoyed at a fine establishment (hint: it’s a dive) called “Wings N Things” on Cortez Road West, en route from the city of Bradenton, Florida to the sleepy fishing village known as Cortez.

Note: Yes, there’s another Wings N Things location (on Tallevast at Lockwood Ridge). And yes, I also enjoy that location—especially for its convenience. However, as both locations are no longer under their original ownership, I feel like the Cortez location’s owners have generally stayed more consistent with the practices of the founder. To some, that’s a positive. To others, it’s a strike against it. If it were closer, I’d probably eat at the Cortez location more often, but in practice, I find myself at Tallevast more often.

The reason this restaurant, in particular, should be chosen is that it serves, in my not-so-humble opinion, the quintessential flavor for the sauce that makes fried drumettes and wings qualify for the moniker, “buffalo.” While it’s available in milder forms (e.g. mild, medium, hot, and “TNT”), I recommend that you select the setting with the most “heat.” It’s a wonderful delicacy the founder of this restaurant named, “Napalm.”

Sandy, as she was known, must have been attempting to call to mind the burning sensation elicited by this bizarre substance used in chemical warfare (if that is indeed the correct term for it) as portions of the jungles of Southeast Asia were engulfed in flames during the Viet Nam conflict.

When the portions of fried yardbird are served to you as a patron, they appear on the table in a plastic boat lined with aluminum foil. Pooled in the bottom is a generous helping of this orange, aqueous substance, which has also been lavishly applied to the sticky exterior surfaces of the chicken pieces. Introduced into your mouth, the sauce ignites a veritable firestorm of flavors… simultaneously sweet, salty, vinegary, and — perhaps most importantly — hot. The heat comes from the particular combination of the peppers (mostly cayenne, but undoubtedly comprised of a selection of others which remain the secret of the proprietors) and the vinegar.

The effect is so remarkable that caution is to be advised when breathing the air above the meal because the heat from the freshly fried meat causes the pepper-infused vinegar fumes to become nearly noxious. Coughing and sputtering is normal for those neophytes who fail to recognize this.

In order to be properly enjoyed, the curly fries — long cut and fried to a crisp — should be doused in white vinegar and then heavily salted. The flavor of this accoutrement perfectly complements that of the poultry.

The celery and carrot sticks add an air, slight as it may be, of healthfulness to the meal. The fact that vegetables are being consumed with this fried fiesta is just enough to salve the conscience of the eater. Dipping the sticks in the small plastic containers of ranch dressing help round out the flavor profile of the meal.

As if the sensations crossing your taste buds weren’t yet salacious enough to tantalize, the deep-fried cubes of cheese are there to push everything beyond proper limits of enjoyability. Care must be taken to allow for the proper cooling of these little balls (one can only imagine that the cheese had been arranged in a cube shape before being breaded and deep fried) as the cheese — if it’s too hot — will explode into your mouth and sear the flesh thereof, properly ruining your ability to enjoy flavor for the rest of your meal. I must insist that at least some percentage of these little balls of dairy delicacies be dipped into the accompanying cherry mustard sauce. Having never located a similar sauce anywhere else, I can only speculate as to its origins. It doesn’t seem to be mustard-like or even cherry-like at all. Rather, it is a liquid with a mild reddish color that adds a nice spark of sweet flavor to the whole experience.

Of course, you may choose to wash all of this down with the beverage of your choice. For many years, this establishment served Pepsi products. Thus, a Mountain Dew was the imbibement of choice for those looking to add a non-alcoholic kick to the meal. Once the switch to Coca-Cola products was made, the only logical choice was an imported beer of some sort. I usually find the darkest option available, as I find it pairs best with the rest of the meal.

As my salivary glands are now working overtime just from the writing of this short essay, I feel compelled to submit my response and drive to this establishment post haste.

Sarasota: #2 Moving Destination in the United States (Combined with Tampa)

Sarasota: #2 Moving Destination in United StatesFor the second year in a row, Sarasota made the “Top 10” list for moving destinations in the United States.

In its annual report published January 22nd, Penske Truck Rentals shows Sarasota climbing from the #10 slot last year (based upon 2012 data) to the #2 position this year (based upon 2013 data) in a new combined entry with Tampa. The company analyzes its one-way truck rentals in order to determine where people are moving within the United States.

Atlanta remains the top destination in the US for this year, and the Orlando—the only other Florida city in the Top 10—holds on to its number 4 slot.

Not surprisingly, Penske cites “the Northeast” and “the Midwest” as big originating points for many of these migrations.

Given this year’s harsh winter conditions, it’s easy to picture this trend continuing in 2014.

Why Combine Tampa and Sarasota?

The report acknowledges Sarasota’s previous #10 ranking, but fails to mention the rationale behind combing Tampa and Sarasota into a single, new entry for this year’s report. I guess we can speculate that Tampa, which didn’t make the Top 10 last year, must have seen an increase throughout 2013. CNN Money apparently believes that Tampa is the only city worth mentioning, as they dropped Sarasota completely from their story about the report. HuffPo managed to get it right, including Sarasota in the #2 slot.

As any resident of the region knows, the Tampa market and the Sarasota market are significantly different. In an infographic published with the report (see below), Penske compares a couple of key market dynamics which they compiled from other sources.

It paints a somewhat amusing picture of the region, showing Sarasota’s median income at $40,813 (6% less than Tampa’s $43,514 figure). Seeing that number compared side-by-side with the average listing price, which is $613,779 for Sarasota (compared to Tampa’s $258,675 average listing).

So… on average, we make 94% of what Tampa’s residents make, but our real estate costs 2.37 times as much as theirs!

Well… that’s the conclusion someone might draw who looks casually at Penske’s data, anyway.

The true story, as we know, is much more complicated than that. Thanks to the perfect storm of 2008, which combined the collapse of the residential housing market and a local Sarasota economy overly dependent upon new construction, our real estate is still a jumbled mess of foreclosures, an unusually high percentage of rental properties, and vacant or abandoned houses. That mess, alongside so many high-end properties on Casey Key, Longboat Key, Bird Key, and Siesta Key (let’s hear it for the #1 beach in the US, right?), makes for a statistician’s nightmare.

In any event, it’s nice to see Sarasota make the list again, even if we were combined with Tampa to get to #2. Perhaps the real estate market will really finish its rebound! Well… one can hope, right?

Top Ten Moving Destinations 2013 - Penske Truck Rentals

Infographic: Penske Truck Rental
Photo of Sarasota: Stephen B. Goodwin via Big Stock

Jane Carroll York

Jane Carroll York
Jane Carroll YorkJuly 20, 1956 – December 17, 2013

Late in the evening of Tuesday, December 17th, my Aunt Jane passed away. That moment represented the peaceful end to a valiant battle against cancer that she waged for the last few months of her life. Her daughter, Rachel, had arrived at her bedside just in time to be with her as she took her last breath… something for which I am very grateful.

Although we weren’t “close” for much of my life due to geographical distance, we had—for the last 5 years or so—spent quite a bit more time together thanks to her move to Florida. It was a great tragedy that precipitated her move here… the untimely loss of her husband, Jim, whom she greatly loved. They had made their home for the better part of their two children’s lives in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston. After Jim passed away in December of 2006, Jane felt drawn to Florida to be near to her parents, Rev. Jack Carroll and Erma Carroll, and to her sister (my Mom), Ann Johnson.

When she relocated to Florida, Jane brought with her my cousin Rachel, who was in her sophomore year of high school at the time. Jane’s eldest, my cousin Jay, was studying and playing football at Azusa Pacific University in the greater Los Angeles area, but we still managed to see him more often than ever during the holidays.

I’m very grateful for these past few years. We were all heartbroken at the loss of Jim… and very grateful for the family’s move to Florida. Countless times during Jane’s recent fight with cancer, whether we sat together at my parents’ house (when they were able to care for her there) or by her bedside in one of the three hospitals where she spent so much time, we remarked about how grateful we were that she moved her family to Florida.

Sadly, the time she spent her with her parents was not long. Within a year and a half of her arrival, we lost her father (my Grandfather). Fifteen months later, her mother (my Grandmother) passed away as well. A few short months later, my cousin, Rachel, left for college in Colorado, where she’s currently studying at the prestigious Colorado School of Mines.

Recently, I’ve thought a lot about that sequence of events… and although she didn’t “lose” her children, she did experience being distanced from them in the midst of losing her husband and her mother and father. I think that’s an awful lot of loss for someone to sustain, and my heart was heavy for her.

But… she was great fun to have around here in recent years. She was regularly to be found at Starbucks, where I would interrupt her coffee and reading when I had the chance. We always saw her at family gatherings for birthdays and holidays. She also went out of her way to invite my wife and daughter and I over to use the pool in her community, and we would often grab takeout and spend the evening with her afterward.

During her funeral service last Saturday at Toale Brothers in downtown Sarasota, Jane was remembered by all for her infectious laugh and for her feisty, vocal nature. She never was one to back down from any spirited debate, and it seemed that there were plenty to be had with her around! She was also fiercely loyal and genuine. She would certainly come to the defense of those she loved, and you really didn’t want to be on the wrong side of her when she did!

In addition to the family members who came to remember her and celebrate her life, some of Jane’s close friends from her neighborhood and from playing tennis were also there at her funeral. She managed to forge some really tight-knit friendships in her five years here in Florida.

I have fond memories of Jane from throughout my life. We briefly lived in the same part of Houston during my childhood, and I remember spending some time with her then. Not long after she met and married Jim, they moved to California. By then, my family had already moved away ourselves, so there were a few years there where we didn’t see them as often.

In addition to being spunky and stubborn (which I’m pretty sure came largely from her Mother), Jane was incredibly smart. This made her a force to be reckoned with. It was a badge of honor for me when I beat her (once) at Trivial Pursuit. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I couldn’t have been more than 12 at the time, and I’m quite certain it was just because I got lucky with the cards that were drawn, but I was no less proud of it!

When her nose wasn’t in a book, Jane was constantly doing crossword puzzles. She loved music, and I remember my amazement at her CD collection when I was a kid.

Most significantly, though, Jane dove into raising Jay and Rachel with all of her might. She was very involved when they were in music and sports, and probably ruined the day of more than a few educators during her time as a Mom. It wasn’t a good idea to treat one of her kids unfairly, that was for sure!

I’m so proud of both Jay and Rachel today. They have each been shaped by the loss of their Father while in their teens. There’s no question that that was difficult—and I’m sure remains so to this day. But each has carried on and pursued and achieved great things since then. They’ve demonstrated great resolve and fortitude as they stood by their Mom during her battle with cancer over the last few months. I was heartbroken for them as they lost their Mom.

Likewise, my Mom has lost both of her parents and now her only sister. My heart breaks for her as well. The same could be said of her brother, my Uncle Steve.

I know that Jane had a very deep faith that kept her connected with God throughout the ups and downs of her life. She was, it seems, especially made to suffer at the hands of some of the “old school” religious ideas that were handed down early in her life. I don’t have a way to know this with any certainty, but I’m guessing that she spent some time being angry with God (not to mention some people) over some of that. But Jane yearned for freedom, heart and soul. As my wife, Jill, and I prayed with her in recent months—often alongside other family members and close friends—we could see Jane’s heart reaching out to God with everything she had.

As I ponder this, I am especially grateful now for her true freedom. She’s free of all the pain and nastiness that was brought on by cancer. But she’s also truly free in her spirit and soul right now. I can only imagine the reunion as she saw Jim and her parents again.

A graveside service will be held on Saturday, December 28th (tomorrow, as I write this) in Katy, Texas at 2pm (local time). Her body will be laid to rest alongside that of her husband, Jim, at the Katy Magnolia Cemetery. Jay and Rachel will be there, and I’m sure some friends from Jane’s years there in Katy will join them.

I miss you and I love you, Aunt Jane.

Join Me Next Friday for Empowering Small Business in Sarasota

Can you believe we are in the last quarter of 2013 already?!

How are your 2013 business goals coming?

Hopefully, you’ve already blown them completely out of the water. But whether you have or not, what I’m writing to you about now could make an enormous difference in your business this year!

You probably know by now that I’m a big believer in getting around highly successful people — people who know something I could benefit from — and letting them share their expertise with me.

That’s why I want to invite you to join me — and lots of other successful business people (and soon-to-be successful people) —  next Friday in Sarasota for the Empowering Small Business event.

Dave Kauffman: Empowering Small Business
Dave Kauffman: Empowering Small Business

I don’t know if you’ve met Dave Kauffman yet, but it seems like everywhere I go in Southwest Florida, someone comes up and tells me, “Hey… I just met your friend Dave Kauffman!”

Just a couple of years ago, Dave launched what has become a phenomenally successful service business in the Sarasota area. It’s actually remarkable just how much that business has grown in a very short time, but Dave will tell you that he’s successful because he got under the mentorship of some great people.

Dave now owns 4 businesses, and all of them are growing and profitable.

One thing I like about Dave is that he wants to share what he’s learned that has helped him run his businesses profitably, with rapid (but healthy) growth.

That’s why when he asked me to teach local business people about what’s working right now in marketing, I was delighted to accept his invitation.

Marketing is just one of the 5 cornerstones of business success that will be the theme of the one-day event next Friday that could change your business forever.

In fact, you’ll be hearing about…

Sales

Todd Smith, author of Little Things Matter
Todd Smith, author of Little Things Matter

Todd Smith, author of Little Things Matter, built a sales business that has paid him over $25 Million in commissions over the last 23 years. (You do the math… that’s over $1M per year!!)  Todd is a personal friend who almost never speaks publicly any more, but since this event is in his back yard in Sarasota, Dave Kauffman got him to agree to come share with us. I’m personally going to be taking notes… and you will too!

Reserve your spot for this event right now.

Administration

Jane Kernen: Automating the Important!
Jane Kernen: Automating the Important!

Jane Kernen works with small businesses doing something that every small business needs to do more of:automating important tasks. What if you could take some of your most critical business tasks and successfully ensure that they’re being done up to your “best practices” level… each and every time, without a human being getting in the way? (Or forgetting?) Jane implements solutions like this with small businesses using one of my favorite automation tools on the planet: Infusionsoft. Whether you’re a solo-preneur or you have 500 employees, you can’t afford to miss what Jane will be teaching!

Operations

Ron Klein invented something that you use every single day and that has transformed transactions for billions of people on the planet! He’ll be sharing from his many decades of experience as a CEO, engineer and inventor, and you won’t want to miss a minute of what he has to say!

Leadership

Dave Kauffman has learned first-hand what you and I know to be true: everything rises and falls on leadership. As the owner of 4 thriving and successful businesses, Dave’s picked up some highly important skills in the area of getting others engaged in your vision and helping develop people into the winners for your team that you need them to be!

Where else can you go (without having to travel!) and sharpen your skills in the 5 critical areas of marketing, sales, administration, operations, and leadership… all in one day?!

Reserve your seat right now.

Space is extremely limited for this event. It’s going to be held at the beautifulPolo Grill right on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. And by the way, lunch is included in your registration (which is already an unbelievable deal)!

Register now and bring a guest for half price!

If you’re like me, I always like to have my wife (she works with me in our business) or a key staff member with me when I go to an event like this… because they help me actually implement what we learn.

Dave wants you and your business to get as much long-term value as possible out of next Friday, so he’s offering you the chance to bring your business partner, spouse, or other key person with you for half price. That’s a savings of $48.50!!

But you’ll want to register right away, as the Polo Grill can only accommodate a limited number of people in their ballroom.

Reserve your seat right now.

I’m looking forward to seeing you there next Friday.

Oh… in case you’re wondering,I’ll personally be sharing some of the secrets of how our clients are getting incredible results. One client recently achieved #1 Google search rank and had their best month in revenue after 24 years in business!

I’ll be giving you access to some of the information that only our clients usually get to hear about and we’ll show you how to put these strategies to work in your business. If you take good notes, you could literally see a difference in your business in just a few days!!

It’s going to be a great day. Check out all the details here. If you have any questions about the event, reply back to this email and I’ll get you the answers.

Twelve Years Later… Sarasota’s 9/11 Connection Stronger than Ever

Sarasota 9/11 Connection
Sarasota’s 9/11 Connection

I’ve previously recounted my own memoirs of 9/11 in Sarasota, but as we remember the anniversary of this tragedy yet again, it seems that Sarasota’s connection to the events of that day gets stronger, if not more mysterious, every year.

Recently I was on a plane chatting with someone who happened to have moved to Sarasota in the years since 9/11. Not having been a resident of the area at the time, he was only vaguely aware of President Bush’s presence in our beautiful city that fateful morning. In fact, he’d recalled “W” being in Florida, and even on the Gulf Coast, but didn’t realize Sarasota was the location.

“Yep. He was in Sarasota. I saw him drive by that morning on his way to Emma E. Booker Elementary School, where he was famously reading to the children when someone whispered in his ear about the attacks,” I said.

As we flew over Florida, I went on to explain that several of the hijackers trained as would-be pilots nearby in Venice—one of them famously not wanting to bother learning to land, just fly.

It reminded me just how much I’ve always felt that Sarasota was eerily connected to the 9/11 attacks… and how that even that day I wondered if our city might have been a target because of the well-publicized movements of the President.

But none of us who lived here back in 2001 had any idea just how strong that connection would turn out to be. We learned of the Venice connection pretty quickly, of course. But we still don’t know much about the Saudi family living in Sarasota at the time, and just how much they may or may not have had to do with the 9/11 hijackers. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting that the FBI continues its pattern of obfuscation and denial about the issue.

Since the FBI has unfortunately not been forthcoming about what it knows, it is only after significant public outcry and a lawsuit that we, the people, stand a remote chance of ever learning more about the family who mysteriously vacated their Prestancia home just 2 weeks prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Perhaps we may never know just how deep the Sarasota 9/11 connection goes. For now, it’s up to a federal judge in Broward County named William L. Zloch. Let’s hope he rules in favor of the people.

Ziglar Philosophy Carried By New Generation

Tom Ziglar with his father, Zig Ziglar
Tom Ziglar with his father, Zig Ziglar
Tom Ziglar with his father, Zig Ziglar (Photo courtesy of Ziglar, Inc.)

Tom Ziglar is uniquely qualified to talk about success. For nearly all of his 47 years, Tom has absorbed first-hand the wit and wisdom of  the man who is arguably the world’s best-loved motivator and success speaker: Zig Ziglar. And for the last 16 years, Tom has carried the responsibility for the success of the family business as CEO of Ziglar, Inc—America’s leading motivational and personal development training company. Tom and two of his sisters, Cindy Oates & Julie Ziglar Norman, represent the next generation of Ziglar bringing “The Ziglar Way” to a new generation of business people.

With his father slowing down (the elder Ziglar last spoke publicly in December, 2010), Tom is now carrying the torch of articulating the world-famous Ziglar philosophy from the stage as well as from behind his desk.

“Tom is not his father,” says David G. Johnson, founder of Sarasota-based Nourish The Dream, which regularly schedules Tom to speak at its business events. “You aren’t likely to see Tom zipping back and forth, up and down and all over the stage like you did Zig. But his message is no less compelling, and the insight he brings as the person responsible for implementing his father’s concepts—with everyone watching, I might add—is in many ways even more valuable… especially for today’s small business owner. We are proud to have Tom on our stage.”

Nourish The Dream is serving as the local host for Ziglar’s “Born To Win” small business growth workshop, a one-day event jam-packed with training that will help any business owner improve operations. Florida events are coming up in Tampa on November 15th and in Sarasota on November 16th.

“Tom and business associate Howard Partridge have created a revolutionary day of training,” says Johnson. “From phenomenal referral marketing systems to solving the number one problem facing business owners today, this one-day workshop is literally changing the lives of business owners. Many feel like their business depends completely upon them and that they can never truly get away from it. This day will change that.”

Howard Partridge is an eight-time small business owner from Houston, Texas, who started his first business out of the trunk of his car over 25 years ago. Today that business continues to produce millions of dollars a year in revenue and operates almost completely without his involvement.

“We got to know Howard and chose him to provide coaching to our small business owner clientele. He represents the highest levels of integrity and is a perfect match to the Ziglar philosophy, which is a very high standard. I’m proud to work alongside him to help small businesses become more profitable and more efficient,” says Tom Ziglar, who will be taking the “Born To Win” events to Australia with Partridge later this month.

When not in front of an audience or conducting local training workshops for business owners around the globe, Tom can be found spreading the Ziglar philosophy via next-generation media like Twitter, where he has amassed a following that numbers more than 71,000 people.

“I think Dad is a prophet and knew years ago that Twitter was coming,” says the younger Ziglar. “Almost all of his quotes are 140 characters or less!”

The full-day “Born To Win” workshop takes place on Thursday, November 15th at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel in Tampa, and on Friday, November 16th at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Sarasota. Registration is $97, which includes a spouse or business partner, and is available by phone at 214-912-5795 or online at BornToWinFL.com.