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I had the opportunity to talk to the Nashville Software School today as they wrap up their class. I chose to talk about my thoughts on interviewing techniques and freelance vs full time employment. I could have written the story either way, but this way was fun :)

90/10 Rule for Mentor Dating

I attended a great Jumpstart Foundry event this evening at the gorgeous new Entrepreneur Center (which is amazing, by the way). I want now to take a moment to offer up a bit of advice to the startups in this years cohort – and for that matter, for startups everywhere. I had a big problem tonight speaking with the startups, and it was not until I was at home and cleaning up for the night that I figured it out – they tried to make me go all the way.

Detail — it is not my job to help you, it is something that I want to do and therefor I do it for free. But here is the thing, you have to want it more than I do. You see, I am a sucker for a great startup. I found myself rushing around trying to make sure I spoke to 3-4 of the different companies and made sure that I offered to make introductions, offer advice and to provide tidbits of information that might spark a meaningful thought and/or conversation. And even though they are already more than a month into the program, they did not follow the magical 90/10 rule from the movie hitch (video below).

The 90/10 rule, if you recall, is this: When you are out on a date with a girl, and you get the signal that it’s ok to give her a kiss, you don’t swing in and go 100% of the way to the lips. No. You go 90% of the way and wait, and let her come the last 10%. In my startup meetings tonight, that was not the case unfortunately. I felt like I was the one trying to convince the startup to pick me! I sought them out. I sparked the conversation. I barged in to meetings. I connected the dots between the ideas I was presenting and their business. I knew about them, and even though some had already connected with me on LinkedIn and had setup meetings with me digitally, they knew nothing about me.

Startups are hard, no doubt. They take a lot of effort, time and brain power. But founders – do NOT make your mentors, your customers or anyone else for that matter do 100% of the work. Just like that magical moment when you are green-lighted by the man/woman of your dreams to go in for the kiss the first time – make your mentors (or your customers) want to go the last 10%. Trust me, you want them to want you back.


Clients are a blessing and a curse – in my line of work, you encounter a ridiculous amount of surprises when you get started on projects. Today I offer up a short post on some things I found out when formatting a custom email for delivery to a massive corporation … who primarily uses Lotus Notes (versions under 8). The email I created which was syntactically beautiful for all other email clients and web (GMail, outlook, iPhone, etc) became 100% unusable in Lotus Notes.

Here are my findings – I hope they help you in your journey to supporting outdated enterprise email clients.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Formatting HTML Emails for Lotus Notes

  • Do everything possible in semantically correct HTML
  • Do not put your style tags in the header. If required, put css in-line – but know this, there is a great chance that they will get ignored
  • If you need to have padding or margins, most of the time those are ignored if done via CSS padding/margin attributes. If you need them, it is best to do nested tables and adding padding with the cellpadding=”10″ attribute
  • When you use tables (and trust me, you should always use tables), I saw more success from applying fixed width sizing to the table and to the individual cells. Don’t forget — if you are using cellpadding, make sure you subtract those widths from the table cells too!
  • Don’t use <p> tags. Use <div> tags or <span> tags. P tags are uncontrollable due to defaults in Lotus Notes. If you use DIV or  SPAN, you should still use them inside of TABLES to have more control.
  • If possible, use the BGCOLOR attribute on <table> and <td> tags as close as possible to where the color is needed. If you only do it at the TABLE level, the cells may inherit from the BODY tag or other parent instead
  • Don’t use BORDERS at all! It seems that the minimum border width in Lotus is 5px no matter what you do !IMPORTANT :D Just get rid of all the borders both in your CSS and on TABLEs and cells.
  • Lotus Notes (versions 6.5 and 7 at least) do NOT support .PNG. That means you have to make all images in .GIF or .JPG format. Have fun with that. It literally will not render a .PNG file

How to Do Testing?

I can not speak highly enough of LitmusApp.com – they are what I used to do 95% of my upfront testing (with the last 5% being sending test emails to select clients using Lotus Notes). They have tremendous support for many email clients and browsers, but important to my scenario, they have lotus notes 6.5, 7. 8 and 8.5 that I could test in within minutes.


Ferfs 2012 – What the Year Looked Like

Here it is, my obligatory year in review. With as bad as my memory is, I require myself to at least once per year document the cool things I can remember that happened over the course of the year… and this was definitely a year of ups and downs. It’s always hard to believe as I try to remember all the things I do in a year how blessed me and my family are, and how lucky we are to have so many great friends and experiences. Thank you 2012, here we come 2013!


Life Moments

  • Remembering my grandmother, who died in early 2012 from cancer. So happy to have been able to see her for the months leading up to her passing.Grandma and Nick Chatting it up
  • Mourning the loss of our 10 year old golden retriever, Cason. He was the only constant in our family, sad to see him go.Cason
  • The happiness of 11 years of marriage. Every August I cant help but think of how lucky I am to have met someone so perfect for me at such a young age.Documenting some pregnant Amy Mac times.
  • The pure joy of learning of our first child. Coming in March, our little boy has been hands down the most exciting thing we have ever planned for.Baby Pic
  • A trip to Memphis with friends, Dave & Sherry. We probably would not have made it there without your prodding.Rocking out on Elvis mic at Sun Studios :)
  • A trip to Mexico with family. A week, unplugged, with loved ones. Always worth it.Mexico 2012
  • Spending time on the mountain (Monteagle). It’s awesome to learn who your greatest friends are, and to be able to do cool things with them.Sunset over the mountain with Hillary, @fitness and @jrobhumphreys


  • Brewing beer with Rob, Matt and Jeff. We’re not the best, but we make amazingly drinkable beer.25 gallons of beer. All in a days work!
  • Finding companies to start to mentor, and to continue to mentor.
  • Backing cool projects on Kickstarter that range from underwear, to gadgets, to food and a book. More great companies.Backed on Kickstarter 2012
  • Another amazing year at the Jumpstart Foundry. The 2012 companies truly amazed me.
  • Being part of the wedding of my good friends Matt & Rachel.Matts Wedding


  • The tremendous execution of Checkd.in. We built so many cool campaigns, its hard to mention them all: Taylor Swift, Pink, Kenny Chesney, Dunkin Donuts, Less Conf, Pitbull and so many more. The team is just crushing it.Checkd.in Photo in the Tennessean
  • The explosive growth of Change Healthcare. The stats are still unpublished, but before this year is over – peoples minds will be blown.More growth, new deals, making magic :)
  • The launching of Curious


  • Fangtastic 5k with John Wyckoff and family
  • The warrior dash complete, and highly recommended. Drink beer, costumes, live music and giant turkey legs.Warrior Dash 2012 victory turkey leg and beer!
  • Ran the 200 mile Ragnar with team CHC. It’s amazing what you learn about people and their desires to succeed when you spend that much time in a van with them. This was a great experience, hope I can do it again one day.Objective complete. 197 mile relay with the @askch team. #ragnar
  • Bought my new Cervelo R3. Decided if I was going to commit, I needed to commit.My New Cervelo R3!
  • Trained 700 miles (small, but moving). My hopes is to do so much more in 2013

I’m sure I have left out soo many moments, but this is what my memory (and facebook, and flickr) remind me to write about. I can only hope that 2013 is more impressive than 2012 in every category. To those I know, much love – lets go get it!


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Big Ol’ Fat Cason – Thanks for the Memories

From October 2001 to October 2012, Cason lived a good life. At 11 years old and more than 120 pounds, he was the only thing that stayed constant in Amy and my life from the day we got him. While we moved from city to city and coast to coast, charging through new adventures and startups, Cason followed along happily at our side. I’m glad he died at home, without pain, and with family. The photos tell a lot of stories, but if you spent any time with him, you know all you need to already :)

Some of my favorite Cason moments:

  • He used to spill your beer just so he could help you clean it up
  • He has eaten: a pound of reeces cups, a pound of chocolate chip cookies, a stick of batter, fiberglass insulation and the orange netting bag that your oranges come in – just to name a few
  • He has chewed holes through both drywall and a mattress, just to see what was on the other side
  • He loved being covered in towels – a towel was actually his favorite toy
  • Cason is “kill me dog” (just google it)
  • and so much more.

11 years is 1/3 of my life and as long as I have been married to my wife. It will be hard to get over, but his memories will of course be with us forever. He was loyal, loving and part of our family. But most of all, he was a great friend.


Goal Achieved: Living With Chickens

For those who do not know me well, allow me to start with this: I have a list. This list is full of all the goals, large and small, that I want to achieve. Some are things like learning martial arts, or playing blues harp, or riding my motorcycle on a long road trip. Some are things like raise chickens, live off my own garden and make the world a better place – you just never know what’s going to be on the list. The idea is this: when something gets to the top of the list, you do it (or you put significant effort into figuring it out). Today we can mark “raise chickens” off the list.

Last month, on July 4th, we brought home our four little ladies (ages 10-16 weeks). Their names (from left to right): Cluck Norris (a cinnamon queen), Chicken Tetrazzini (a Salmon Faverolle), Nugget (a Welsummer) and Hen-rietta (an Americauna). Having had them a month, I can officially say they are growing to be a big part of our family. They are very low maintenance and will start producing eggs in about 8 weeks.

A few details for those of you who are interested (this is the significant effort part):

Above: Our chicken coop at about 90% complete.

Amy and I are proud to be among the few city dwellers in Nashville to have our permit and be raising chickens near downtown. Soon we will be getting upwards of 4 eggs per day to go along with the fresh veggies from the garden. It’s been fun to have friends and family over to teach them about our chickens, and raising chickens in general. Im sure this is just the first part of our chicken story, but… another list item, completed!


It is bittersweet, but after 10 years of running our screen-printing company, we’ve decided that we can no longer devote the appropriate time to it. It was Amy and my very first small business startup and since, we’ve started more than 10 additional companies!

We have had a great time working with you to create shirts for events and adventures in all of your lives and we are grateful for the business and friendships that grew because of it. I wish I could recommend someone else to do the work for your in our absence, but honestly, no one does what we do anymore for the price.

Above is a photo from 2004 from a Jimmy Buffet party where we brought t-shirts for everyone there. It was a fun ride, but time to clear some space for the next big thing.


Barbara Wright: 1938 – 2012

Grandma Barb Southworth, The Funny Grandma

Barbara Marie (Wright) Southworth, 73, died at 2:54 p.m. Sunday, April 22, 2012 in Tennessee surrounded by her family.

She was born Dec. 4, 1938 in Monticello to John and Edith (Widner) Wright. On Aug. 29, 1953, in Royal Center, she married Joseph Edward Southworth; he preceded her in death. She and the love of her life were devoted to their two daughters. As the families grew, so did their love. Barbara treasured life and her friends. She was very close with the entire family of Jim Maxson Sr. who were considered part of her immediate family.

Barbara was a lifelong resident of Monticello. She retired from White County Memorial Hospital in 2002 where she worked for 21 years as a Dietary Aide and later Assistant Director of Foods and Nutrition. She always enjoyed both her co-workers and the patients she cared for.

Barbara believed that all people are good in their own right and treated them so. She never met a stranger. Through the years, “Coffee’s on!” and “You’re on!” were poetic as everyone was welcomed into her home, and if you lingered, the games came out. She enjoyed traveling and camping and in later years, arts and crafts.

Barbara had a strong belief in God and His plan for her life. Nearing the end, she was excited she would be joined with her husband and forever be in God’s presence.


Ferfs’ 2011 – A Year in Review

It’s always amazing to look back on your life and see what you have done in the past 12 months. That is probably what I love most about the new year. It’s not the aspirations to make my life better, but taking the time to think about what my family and I have done, and how we can keep making our lives and those lives around us better.

2011 brought a lot of greatness to my life. Great friends, great memories and great opportunities as well. None of this is designed to be bragging, if you know me you know that is not my strong suit. And you will also know that one of my weaknesses is a terrible memory. This post is mostly for me. I want to remember all of the things I have done. So with that, let me remind my self today of 2011…


Staying in shape, finding new friends…

Ran the Fangtastic 5k with Matt, Rachel, Matt & Nick

Fangtastic 5k Team

Cycled Over 1,000 Miles & Raced a 100 Mile Race

Prepping for our 50 Mile Ride Last Weekend

Battled (and Beat) the Warrior Dash with Amy and Nick

Amy, Ferf and Nick - Warrior Dash 2011

Ran the Cinco in the Gulch 5k
5k in the Gulch!


Friends & Family

The ones I love, and the things we did…

Sold our Country House, Bought a City House

Sold our Country House, Bout a City House

10 Years Strong of Being Married to My Best Friend

Ferf & Amy - Misty Wedding in Salt Lake City

Watched My Sister Get Married in Salt Lake City

Wedding Photobooth

Celebrated the Life of Eli Witt (RIP 2011)


Celebrated the Life of Tim McGovern (RIP 2007)

Life always gets harder near the summit.

Visited Mexico, 1 Week, No Technology

Infinite pool. Ocean. Mexico. Tequila.

Visited Florida with Matt, Rachel & Nick

princess hats

Built Furniture for Rail Yard Studios

Making the Bed. Literally (at Rail Yard Studios)


Managing Director of the JSF, Launching 6 Companies

MDs at Jumpstart Foundry Investor Day 2011

Raised the First Round of Funding for Checkd.in!

"Don't spend it all at one place..."

Built Amy and Nicks First Startup – EverydayBetter.com

My Wife's Startup

Invested in 6 Kickstarter Startup Companies

PadPivot - In Action

Attended TechStars Demo Day in NYC

Doin' Time

Learned Tons About My Grandma Southworth

Grandmas Photos: joe & barb, 1960

Funding and Growth (Doubled in Size!) for Change Healthcare


Season Tickets to the Preds with the CH Nerds


What’s in the Future?

I can only hope I continue to be blessed with great friends, a loving family and good fortune. I know not every moment can be glorious, as I found out in the past year. We remembered Tim on the four year anniversary of his death, donated oars and planted a tree for Eli Witt after his death from battling Lymphoma, and then finding out that my grandma has pancreatic cancer just to name a few moments.

But find the good in the bad. I realize over and again how important friends are. How important family is. And how important it is to try to live every day to the fullest. I’ve learned how to listen, how to help and how to care. I have also tried to teach more and more as I met with 100’s of startup entrepreneurs and mentors in Nashville and across the country helping them work on their companies.


My number one lesson in 2011?
Live life, appreciate your friends and family
& love what you do.



Life Always Gets Harder Near the Summit…

Life always gets harder near the summit.

Every day I sit in my office and this photo is there. The picture is of Tim McGovern, Nathaniel Saylor and myself at the top of a mountain where we always hiked and climbed in college. Inside the frame I added a fortune I got from a Chinese restaurant a few years ago that I think fits quite well. It reads “Life always gets harder near the summit”.

I have a pretty good life, but that does not mean that there are not challenges. I work hard to make myself and others around me successful, and that is why I love this photo so much. Not only does it remind me of my friend Tim who died in Iraq 4 years ago… but it is a source of inspiration to keep on striving to be the best. To not let work get in the way of friendship, love or life. That hard work means you are doing something that matters in some way. And that you never know when it all might end.

Tell someone you love them today. Do something that you love today. And remember those who gave it all so we can do these things everyday.