Hello, and welcome!
My name is Rev. Stephen B. Henry, PhD. and I am proud to be both the founder and the Executive Director of the Online Sellers Association. Don't worry about the Rev. or Dr. stuff, as I won't preach to you. So please, just call me Steve.
I do, however, want to take a few moments to share with you who I am and the philosophy and experience that led me to the founding of what was originally called the Online Selling Association and the services provided here to support you in your business building efforts.
In many ways my story is not so different from yours or anyone else's. I am just an average guy who who grew up on a small hobby farm. During his service in World War II my father read the book Five Acres And Independence and when the war was over he bought about seven acres of good farm land. There were chickens, a few pigs, one cow and an old tractor. My mother, father, and grandmother manged the farm, tended to the animals, grew apples, peaches, plums, raspberries, asparagus, squash, and lots of other good things. They went to the farmers market every week during the summer and ran a small convenience store year round. It wasn't much but they got by. It was where I was born and mostly where I lived until I was 22 and moved away to start my own business.
Growing up was pretty normal. I did chores and went to regular schools. Later my father took a job in the auto industry, which added to the farm income. We lived okay; not rich by any means, but okay. My mother also ran a small antique shop from our barn. It was painted and fixed up, with glass windows replacing the big swinging front doors, but it was still just our barn. Perhaps growing up in that environment gave me my first insight into small business and burned the term entrepreneur into my soul.
Over the years I've had a lot of different jobs and professions. From my first newspaper and TV Guide routes as a pre-teen, to growing vegetables to sell to the neighborhood from a 120 foot greenhouse at age of 14, after my father bought the small farm next door, to traveling hundreds of miles to sell old militaria at weekend antique shows while still in high school, I was involved in business of one sort or another all through my growing years. I guess you might say I was inducted into the entrepreneurial school of hard knocks at an early age. I learned about work, hard work, and I learned about profits and, sometimes, losses too.
This process has gone on throughout most of my life. I've done many different things; so many, in fact, that most personnel managers looking at my resume today would probably think I was irresponsible and certainly wouldn't hire me. For me, however, the whole process has been personally rewarding and often quite profitable. I've had some resounding successes, building and selling some very lucrative enterprises. I've also had some miserable failures, but even those taught me many positive things.
I've worked for others, too. For small businesses, sometimes just me and the owner, and for big corporations, at least one of them a Fortune 500 multi-national, but mostly I've worked for myself, most often running a small enterprise from an office in my home, in a variety of fields, leading to me being one of a large and growing group that are now being called "solopreneurs".
My varied experience, and what it has taught me, has served me well. It allows me to help other avoid the mistakes I made learning on my own. It allows me to teach and share the outcomes of that learning. My own failures allow me to help you avoid the time and expense of making those same mistakes. My successes, in many different fields, give me the insight to understand, and appreciate, the finer points of your business and provide the specifics you need to move forward.
At the time of starting the Online Sellers Association (known then as the Online Selling Association), my wife Lora and I earned our entire income online (we still do!) We had been eBay power sellers for several years, operators of our own selling venue (Main Street Mall Online) and website designers, managers, and promoters (Our Hutch Web Services). We did a lot of one-on-one small business consulting with individual clients from a wide spectrum of markets and provided search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM) services to assist our clients getting their businesses found on the 'net.
The OSA seemed to grow quite naturally from out of all this. It was a focal point for us to bring our experience, knowledge, and the expertise we had honed over years of working for ourselves and others, to a place where we could share what we knew, and explore new ideas, with many more people. It would also be a place where others could share and explore ideas together, where we could bring other professionals, marketers, experts, trainers, and other successful business owners, together to help those just starting out, or those needing a little push, to move forward on the right path.
Brendon Burchard, founder of Experts Academy and best selling author, and someone I follow quite closely, says, "The era of 'ask and you shall receive' is dead; today's achievers live and breath by the credo 'give and you shall receive'." I learned this years ago from a very successful person, Jim Janz, who told me, "Always give something of value!"
Building on this concept through many years of my life I've probably given more than I've sold. The result, I believe sincerely, is that I have sold far more than I ever would have been able to without the giving. I encourage you to consider this concept in your own business.
I once listened to a motivational speaker -- I'm afraid I can't remember his name but I do remember his message. He began his presentation with the usual warm up the audience funny story. He asked if their were any pilots in the audience and a few people scattered throughout the several hundred seated in the hotel ball room raised their hands. The speaker begged for their indulgence and forgiveness as, he said, "I am not one myself but I'm glad there are good ones out there!"
He went on to explain that the whole process of flying a plane intrigued him. He was astonished at how there were so many things to be done that you needed so many check lists. It was all a little puzzling, he said, but he went on to explain that he knew pilots used check lists for just about everything. There were pre-flight check lists and pre-taxi check lists and pre-take-off check lists and in-the-air check lists and so on.
He went on to say that often the things on the check lists had nothing to do with what you were doing now or even what you were going to do next. "Take, for example, the pre-landing check list," he said. He went on to tell us that on that particular check list you would find an item for planes with retractable landing gear. It would say something like landing gear down and locked. "That," he told us, "has nothing to do with landing the plane!"
He certainly grabbed my attention with that last statement. I wanted to hear more. The speaker explained to us that successful landings are made quite frequently without putting the landing gear down at all; frequently enough they even have a name for it, belly landings.
"Landing gear down and locked isn't about landings," he asserted. "You can land a plane just fine with the landing gear up, but have you ever heard of even one plane being able to take off that way?"
It broke the tension, as it was supposed to do, and made the whole audience laugh. It was a successful ice-breaker but it was, I realized sometime later, much more than that. There was a message contained in the humorous story the speaker shared with us that day. It was a powerful message that led me to understand that sometimes we need to do things now that may not have a direct effect, application, or need, until much later. An important message for everyone, and it changed my way of looking at things.
Dr. Wayne Dyer says, "If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." This was certainly true in my life. I began looking at things with a new perspective and my approach to business changed. More successes followed and failures had much less negative impact. In fact, I learned so much positive experience from them I stopped thinking as them as failures but, rather, as life lessons.
Books have always been a big part of my life. The printed word has a lot of power and it is a great way of conveying information to others. It gives even the shyest among us a powerful voice. Perhaps this is why I embraced website technology so early and so easily. I have built hundreds of them in the past 18 years or so.
On this site we will readily suggest and recommend books to our members and also to visitors in the open-to-the-public areas. I unabashedly praise the Kindle, Amazon's digital reading device. We will provide links and linked images for printed books, the Kindle and Kindle edition ebooks when available, and other products from time to time. These paid advertising links go directly to Amazon, a trusted online retailer where millions of people shop with confidence. We believe this is a great way to expose the best choices in reading on topics relating to our industry and we also thank you for helping support this site.
Over the years I've read hundreds of books, some of which you may find strange that I mention here. My early reading included Thornton W. Burgess and Franklin W. Dixon. Today I can track exactly how these authors impacted my later life. I soon graduated to Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke, which changed my entire outlook on the world, broadening my view to encompass the universe. As my life moved into the serious business world I found J. Paul Getty's How To Be Rich (hard to find these days but worth the look), and Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People.
Through out my business life I have continued to read. Two powerful titles I read recently are Brendon Burchard's The Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice, and Russel Simons' Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All. I highly recommend these two books to anyone seeking to move positively forward towards personal and/or business success.
In case anyone is interested, at the time this founder's message is being written, I am currently reading Alvin and Heidi Toffler's Revolutionary Wealth, and the next book on my must read list is Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek, recommended by my good friend and mentor, Dan Therrell.
None of these are get rich quick books. If that's what you are looking for, none of these books will interest you, and nor will the Online Sellers Association. These are books about understanding success and providing a realistic road map to help you get there. In many ways that's the OSA in a nutshell.
Books have taught me a lot but so have life experiences. I remember when I first got back into business after college I felt very young and inexperienced. I said to myself, by the time I'm 28 I'll have more experience and people will respect me. Well, when I was 28 I remember saying much the same thing but with the number pushed ahead a little. By the time I reached 30, I thought... This went on for a few years until one day I found myself standing in the board room of a major Fortune 500 corporation. Around the polished table sat company Directors and Vice-Presidents. The meeting was chaired by the division President. I was a mere 30-something mid-level manager and I can tell you I was pretty nervous.
Midway through my presentation, which was made visual through the use of an over-head projector with transparent slides, the Director of Manufacturing, an exceptionally bright and somewhat intimidating fellow by the name of Jack Norian, interrupted me to ask a question.
Jack said he used the same kind of slides and knew how they were made -- you printed out what you wanted to appear on the slides onto regular paper and fed the printed paper sheet, along with the heat-sensitive slide, through a special heat machine and out came the slide with the content of the paper copy burned on to it. The slides came in a variety of colors.
What Jack wanted to know was how was I able to have my paragraphs alter between black text and red text on the same slide. It was a trick I used to make the content easier to follow. "All my slides," he said, "are always a single color!"
I lifted up my slide and separated it into two layers, each a single slide. The first displayed the first, third, and fifth paragraphs in black text with ample space between them. The second had the second, fourth, and sixth paragraphs in red text. When you placed one slide over the other you got one slide with alternating colored paragraphs.
It was a small thing but it showed me that the people I looked up to didn't know everything either. From that moment on I was never nervous about speaking to others or being among those who had achieved more than I had. I understood that we all knew some of the same things and each of us knew things the others didn't. And I also knew then what I wanted to do with my life. In many ways these last 20 years of Internet and e-Commerce business have been the real preparation for what I am beginning now, here at the Online Sellers Association.
Some of you may know me online as The Wiz. I operate my personal information sharing site called Wizard's Place where I provide free help on topics ranging from website selection to e-commerce solutions. The Wiz moniker started in my early days of selling on eBay. When I created my account I used the ID wizard_mithrandir.
Since mithrandir isn't so commonly known most people seemed to focus on the wizard part and started calling me The Wiz, perhaps because I seemed to be some kind of wizard with HTML, listing templates, and websites. Others thought, since I lived in Kansas, maybe it had something to do with the Wizard of Oz.
In fact, the name actually came from early bulletin board system (BBS) days back on AMBASSADOR BOARD in 1989. Mithrandir is the elfin name of the wizard better known as Gandalf, in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and other books by J. R. R.Tolkien. I had taken the name Wizard Mithrandir for use in role playing games on the BBS. How things change!
From farm boy peddling newspapers and vegetables, to retailer, to corporate management, to online selling, and to successful ecommerce consultant, I've come a long way since those early days. As I turn 60 this year, it's a great time to begin a whole new career. I'll let you know how it goes. Or come with us, with the OSA, and be part of the experience as we help you put your business on the path to success and keep it there.
Rev. Stephen B. Henry, PhD.
Hutchinson, KS, April 22, 2011.
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