Category Archives: WMBizBlog

Posts dealing specifically with West Michigan Business Blog

Looking the Part?

I’m sure you’ve seen them, bad publicity photos, cheesy professional headshots.  You know those ones where it looks like the person is just smiling a little too hard, or they are holding their head at an awkward angle.  Depending on your position, having a good professional headshot is a must, and it should go without saying that the individual being photographed should dress professionally as well, and a president or CEO would be one such person.

Well the family owned business issue of “Business” the publication from Holland Chamber of Commerce brings us this:

Could you imagine if he had a lei on?

Jeff Mulder is the CEO and President of ODL (manufacturer of decorative door glass and other residential products) an international company headquartered in Zeeland, that employs over 800 people in 6 countries.  So he is not the CEO of a small machine shop in town, but of a pretty large company.  But why, oh why was it decided that wearing a Hawaiian shirt for a headshot was a good idea, and even more shocking, why was this photo submitted for use in this publication.  So maybe wearing the power suit with red tie, might not be the best choice of photo for the family business issue, so why not go with the ODL embroidered shirt from Land’s End?  Though it could be worse, they could have gone with the edited out significant other photo, those can always be found on Rapid Growth’s Jobs Landed section (Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, Exhibit 3, Exhibit 4).

Why so serious?

Not to be overlooked but there is also just plain angry photos, like the above from one of the members of Status Creative.  Why is Scott Erickson so angry?  It looks especially odd right next to his co-worker Rob Bliss, who sports quite an affable look in his photo.

Do you have any favorite bad publicity photos you would like to share?  Share them here or on The Ledger facebook page.  Does a weird, bad, or awkward photo, change your thoughts of that person?



If you dabble in social media, and are active in the West Michigan social media scene you are probably familiar with (IWYS) , and its founder Jason Sadler.

So what exactly does IWYS do?  Well companies hire them for a day, and they will wear whatever T-Shirt the company provides for them on that specific day, and then IWYS team of 5, tweets, take photos, records videos, and do live streaming of the IWYS team wearing the T-Shirt and promoting the company.  Here is how it officially works and for the curious here is the pricing.  Amazing how one guy can bring in $333,000 a year, plus $60,000 for monthly sponsorships just for wearing a different shirt 365 days a year (though I suppose he has to pay his other 4 employees).

So why do companies have such a fascination with IWYS?  Initially looking at the business model it seems like an awfully stupid idea, that companies would pay people to wear their shirt just because they will tweet, shoot videos, and take pictures of themselves with the shirt.  It doesn’t seem to be a very sound strategy for engaging customers.  They do have a large following but are those followers actually potential customers?

But for some reason West Michigan companies have really jumped onto the bandwagon.  For 2011, the following are companies have partnered with IWYS:  The Stow Company, JW Marriott and

Yes that is a Griffin

Amway Grand, Experience

Grand Rapids (the CVB) and Good Life Granola.


If you are a loyal reader of The Ledger you will immediately recognize the connection between these some of these companies… Stow Company, JW Marriott, Amway Grand.   That’s right they are all associated with the DeVos family (It’s crazy what businesses are in their portfolio).

In any case, these companies paid Jason Sadler of IWYS to promote their companies and arranged for him to travel to West Michigan during the week of June 6 through June 12, 2011 and put him up in the Amway Grand and JW Marriott hotels, where he wore the following shirts:

2011 hasn’t been the only year that IWYS have been leveraged by these companies, some have a history as well.

The Stow Comapny

  • Amway Grand and JW Marriott hosted Jason for a whole week in 2010 – Though he only wore the JW Marriott t-shirts on June 14, and Amway Grand on June 21, he was still in Grand Rapids attending area events and promoting things for the hotels.  Looks like those other T-Shirt sponsors during that time got the short end of the stick.

Does IWYS actually do anything?  Looking at the comments on the company’s calendar day web page, they are either non-existent or lacking depth, I am surprised I don’t see any “First” comments.  Additionally who really wants to sit through 10 videos (5 YouTube & 5 UStream) on the same company (don’t even bother looking at the comments on YouTube), not to mention new videos are out there everyday of the year (it might be difficult to get caught up if you miss a day).  I’ll admit that I am not a big on watching online videos, and sitting through at least 2 minutes of promotion & pitching 10 different times doesn’t sound appealing even if I was.

What is the fascination with this marketing medium?  Have they had a good return on investment with this?  The only company, which a campaign like this would make, sense is Good Life Granola, since their products are relatively inexpensive consumer products that can be ordered online, quickly and easily with little thought.  It would be easy for anyone following IWYS to quickly and easily purchase some granola…but not so easy to do for a city, or hotels.  But for these other companies that don’t sell cheap tangible items, it doesn’t seem like a good fit.  For the hotels alone they spent over $3,000 for their days, not including the travel, lodging, and dining expenses that I am assuming the hotels paid for (at least on their days).  But I do give all the companies involved credit for coordinating the visit with IWYS, I wonder how many secret backroom meetings it took to get it all hammered out.

This relationship still leaves so many questions… but through the Twitter (follow me here) I was able to ask a couple of questions to Ryan Slusarzyk, Marketing Manager for the Amway Grand and JW Marriott hotels, so he was able to provide some insight. For the hotels at least the goal was not to sell rooms, but to increase their social media presence and to sell Grand Rapids as a destination to visit.  As a result of the IWYS campaign in 2011, the Facebook pages for the two hotels gained over 2,000 followers (many from Michigan and the Midwest)  and there was “significant impact on twitter. “  The hotels also used this visit to promote “The Hotel Kitchen” product line, which features tangible products that can be ordered and shipped.

Ok so I am starting to turn the corner a little bit on this because when Jason from IWYS was in Grand Rapids, he did many videos showcasing Grand Rapids, its restaurants, and things to do.  So I can definitely see that as being a benefit.  Selling a product line of dressings, salsas, and chutneys, is much easier to purchase and cheaper.  Though if he didn’t come to visit Grand Rapids, I would have to think that the campaign would not be as effective.  Something tells me IWYS other employees did not have very interesting/effective videos since they were promoting from their home base.

So who knows exactly how much value the IWYS campaigns bring in, especially for these intangible objects.  But according to Ryan, he is pretty confident that the hotels will partner with IWYS again next year.

What do you think?  Is this an effective marketing channel, and a good use of marketing budget? Will anyone dare leave a “first” comment on my blog?

Introducing The Ledger – Providing a Different Account of West Michigan Business

So all this talk about branding has made me rethink mine as well.  West Michigan Business Blog is not the most awe inspiring name, so I decided to do some brain-storming and came up with The Ledger (which narrowly beat out WindQuest).  So there we have it The LedgerProviding a Different Account of West Michigan Business.  Let me know what you guys think.

Welcome Urban Street Readers & Everyone Else

I just wanted to extent a welcome to any Urban Street Magazine readers who stumbled their way onto my blog. As an introduction, I blog about West Michigan business news that I find interesting, odd, or cool, check out my About page for more details. To those who haven’t stumbled on my blog through Urban Street, please go pick one up along the Lakeshore (any of the downtown stores in either Holland, Saugatuck, Douglas, or Grand Haven would be a good bet – email me if you can’t find one or if you are not from the area).

The reason why I am telling you to grab a free Urban Street Magazine is because I wrote an article in the latest issue on Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven. It was an opportunity that afforded itself to me through this blog, so it was quite cool knowing that my blog lead to getting an article published. Here is a PDF of my article in Urban Street.

So thanks for stopping by and reading, and let me know your thoughts on the article.

Twisted Rooster – Emphasis on Twisted

Please read the comments section for an update & for a good example of customer service

Twisted Rooster is now open, and I am feel a bit conflicted.  Even though I am a lowly blogger, I feel that I have contributed to Twisted Rooster’s successful launch and opening of their restaurant (but if it fails then I hereby retract the previous statement).  Let me give you some background and you can let me know what you think.  On May 27th I wrote my “Breaking the Chain – O’Charley’s becoming Twisted Rooster” story.  I also tweeted the story at 1:19 PM on May 27th.  On the same date  Twisted Rooster retweeted my tweet (screen shot below and you can also visit their twitter page and scroll down to May 27th on their twitter page and see it). 

Also on May 27th Twisted Rooster posted a link to my blog post on their facebook page, which was “liked” and “commented” by others.  This wall posting that Twisted Rooster put on their own wall was recently removed (I viewed it earlier this week, and now it is nowhere to be found).

Additionally, as soon as my blog was being mentioned on facebook and twitter, Twisted Rooster began using the term “unchaining”, which I first used in my original post (second to the last paragraph)
“So what do you think is this going to be a continuing trend, the “unchaining” of restaurants?  Can we expect more restaurants to go this route?  What are your thoughts and is this a good thing or bad thing?”

So now Twisted Rooster is using the term “unchaining” and in conjunction with Grand Rapids Social Diary they hosted a un”CHAIN”ing Party for their soft launch on July 21, 2010.  Where they invited a list of VIPs to attend.

To recap – Twisted Rooster removed a wall post that they posted about my blog, Twisted Rooster and Grand Rapids Social Diary took “unchaining” term and ran with it, and with what could have been a nice PR move, I was not invited to the soft launch. So it seems to me like they are taking all the credit for the term “unchaining” and then trying to erase the source of this word, me.

It is not like I expect any monetary gain or special treatment, but it would’ve been nice to be recognized for my ideas.  Being invited to attend the soft launch would have been a nice gesture, but again not something I expected to happen.  Let me clarify that I do not have a problem with Twisted Rooster’s actions by themselves, but coupled together and with the Facebook wall post that was deleted (let’s just call this the straw – final one or the one that broke the camel’s back – you decide), just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  I am having trouble coming up with any other reasons why Twisted Rooster would delete their facebook wall post, besides trying to erase their link to me and my post.  So here I am writing about how Twisted Rooster took my idea and pushed me aside instead of writing a follow-up on how cool it was that  they borrowed my idea, gave my blog great publicity, and how I stopped by for lunch the other day.

So what do you think?

a) Shut up stupid blogger, and go back to your mother’s basement
b) Yeah I can understand your frustration but that is life
c) If that happened to me, I would be super pissed and would stand outside of Twisted Rooster with the no rooster sign pictured above
d) I don’t care, just write about something interesting

Big Dutchman or Big German?

Big Dutchman is a leading manufacturer of feeding systems and housing equipment for pig and poultry management.  You can probably find their equipment at any large mass production pig or chicken farm worldwide.  Additionally they also offer indoor fish farming equipment and biogas systems (having agricultural & livestock waste converted into gases which would then be converted into electrical energy – don’t you remember this from my ZFS story?)  They also are involved in micro-brewery industry, where some of their automatic feeding equipment has been re-purposed to help in the brewing process, delivering specified amounts of brewing ingredients at scheduled times.

Big Dutchman has its US headquarters right here in Holland.  It was started by two brothers of Dutch descent in Holland, MI in 1938 who created the first automatic feeding system for poultry.  So the Big Dutchman brand name makes sense.  Now here is where it gets tricky, in the 1980s Big Dutchman was purchased by its German distributor, therefore officially becoming a German company.  In a shrewd marketing move (in my opinion) the new ownership team declined to rename the company Big German.  Something tells me that would not have gone over too well, plus it sounds a little intimidating.  But I could easily imagine the Happy Dutchman in the logo to ditch the Dutch garb and have some lederhosen with knee high socks, with cap and feather.

So being based in Holland, Big Dutchman is still a part of the local community despite the foreign ownership.  In summer of 2009, Big Dutchman donated Hen House equipment, including a feeding trough, watering system and egg-collecting conveyor belt all within a climate-controlled environment, to the Critter Barn.  Critter Barn is a “educational farm that teaches about today’s agriculture, houses farm animals and birds, an idea garden and orchard on three beautiful acres in Zeeland township.”  Here is a nice writeup on Critter Barn by Corp Magazine.

And in order to further cross link this blog post with some of my other entries, guess who else donated goods to Critter Barn?  That is right Zeeland Farm Services.  They donated their expertise to help establish a soybean program at Critter Barn.

I love seeing local business supporting local causes, and with Ottawa County’s large agricultural footprint it is great to see all these companies involved with educating the locals about what is happening in their region.  So all you other agricultural manufacturers in the area, you better step up your game… I am looking at you Mechanical Transplanter & Holland Transplanter.

And since I am a big fan of Beer Koozies please enjoy this image of the stylish orange Big Dutchman beer koozie.  Please note the color coordination between beer label and koozie.

Breaking the Chain – O’Charley’s becoming Twister Rooster

A couple of weeks ago it was announced that four Michigan area O’Charley’s Restaurants (one in Holland, one in Grand Rapids, two on east side of the state) owned by Meritage Hospitality Group (MHG) were going to be dropping the O’Charley’s franchise and the restaurants will be re-launched as the Twisted Rooster within two years.  The Grand RapidsTwister Rooster will be launched on July 21st.  Alright well what is the Twisted Rooster, sounds like another chain.  Well it is kind of, it is a local chain that was developed by locally owned MHG.  According to The Grand Rapids Press article the Twisted Rooster will feature a “concept to adapt to consumer preferences that favor unique, local eateries using local ingredients.”   Apparently MHG was “underwhelmed by the performance of O’Charley’s” and decided to make a change.

This of course sounds great and I will be interested to check out the new restaurant and see just how “twisted” the menu is.  But even more fascinating to me is the transformation of a national franchise chain into a local area restaurant.  Oddly enough the Grand Rapids area has experienced one of these transformations in the past.  Anyone remember the various Pizzeria Unos that dotted Grand Rapids, well they were all transformed into a restaurant called Malarky’s in 2008.  As far as I can glean it was the same reasons why O’Charley’s will be flipped into Twisted Rooster, restaurants were under performing, franchise fees were expensive, and the owners thought they could do better by themselves.

So what do you think is this going to be a continuing trend, the “unchaining” of restaurants?  Can we expect more restaurants to go this route?  What are your thoughts and is this a good thing or bad thing?

Oh yeah for all you social media nuts out there here is Twisted Roosters stuff – Twitter (interesting how they are engaging the consumers asking for opinions and ideas.  Very cool how they interacted with GRSocialDiary regarding vegan dining options). Facebook page.

See what West Michigan’s restaurant reviewer had to say about Malarky’s.

Update: See my updated thoughts about Twisted Rooster in my new post.
Update #2: Per Twisted Rooster, there are no longer plans to reopen in Holland, there is now a for sale sign at the old O’Charley’s building