Update from Chicago – Days 1 & 2

by Tim Francis on September 18, 2012

Edmonton to Chicago

Was a mad rush to get everything before heading to YEG airport. Even at the airport I was still working. Actually, I was walking towards boarding for my Chicago flight and finished my last call while my passport was being scanned. Whew!

The flight there was pretty good. Sitting next to me was a Navy officer – around my age – so we chatted for a few hours. Interesting what he had to say.

He talked about the “Military Industrial Complex”, and how – from a pure dollars and cents perspective – probably the best thing for the American economy would be World War III. He was obviously quick to acknowledge that there would be catastrophic human implications (beyond the money). Interesting topic to contemplate.

Then Arriving at O’Hare airport, I was greeted by the disco tunnel. Man, Chicago knows how to party!


…yes that is actually one of their “moving sidewalks”.

Then off to my accomodations. Awesome – quite nice :)

Then it was time for my first traditional chicago experience… deep dish pizza!


Then I had my regular mastermind meeting with Team Monday Night Marketing Mastermind (lol), which we’ve done weekly in Edmonton, consistently since January of this year. Was so happy to still connect with the guys even though I was Skyping in from CHI.

I’m realizing that “consistency” has been a huge theme for me this year. I’ve always been committed and persistent, so that’s never been a problem. So maybe what I mean is that my consistency is extending into new and exciting areas…. consistently measuring my progress through the Monday night Marketing mastermind, week after week, has had an excellent influence on my business results. Working out consistently at Crossfit is producing great results there too.

Then it was time for some sleep. Sleep, sweet sleep. I only chose to come to Chicago like 3 or 4 weeks ago. And I crammed basically 4 weeks of work into the last 2 weeks before coming to CHI. A byproduct of that kind of extreme work has been a ever-accumulating sleep debt. I was averaging 4.25 horus of sleep per night over the 14 days leading up to my trip (yes I keep track of these kinds of things), and it was starting to catch up.

So…. uber-tired… and off to bed for around 6 hours.

(Not sure if you knew this or not, but if you would like to receive updates via email from my trip, simply put your name and email in the box below. Otherwise just keep reading to hear about how I ended up partying with the Deans of a Milwaukee-based University…)

Day 2: Chicago, IL to Milwaukee, WI

I had no idea what an Amtrak train was, but I was supposed to get on one for a 90-minute trip to Milwaukee.

A quick cab ride to the station and whoosh off I went.

Within a few minutes I realized I had a problem. I wanted to contact my Milwaukee host to let him know I made the train and was on my way, but I had no way of contacting him because I had no WiFi. Hmmm… not a problem I deal with very often!

So I looked around and decided to ask a stranger on the train if they had Wifi access. (Nope.) But she did have an iPhone, so she lent it to me. Felt weird using a total stranger’s iPhone – I felt like an intruder being on her phone – but she was really cool about it, and it all worked out. I guess that’s one of the joys of travel – lots of interesting unexpected experiences. (Not that I’ve done that much travel.)

So once I could relax on the train it kinda hit me…. I was on the modern day version of a Taggart Transcontinental train… cool! Check it out…


Made me think of the longer passages in Atlas Shrugged where Dagny described the parallel between the pulsing horsepower of a locomotive energy and the drive of human ingenuity, the drive of the entrepreneur’s human energy and spirit. It was transfixing moment.

After that moment passed, I had another thought…. my regular thinking patterns kind of came crashing in…. I should do something with this precious time where I’m sitting and doing nothing for over an hour! So many books I could read, so many training videos I could watch…. what should I do!?!?

Then it hit me… NO, I don’t need to do anything else. In fact this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Blankly staring out the window at the passing countryside, enjoying the rhythic clicking of the tracks. The quiet of the car I was in, with so few people in it.

Just generally being in my body. Totally zoned out! Just being, not needing to do anything at all. I never do that. It was really nice :)

Milwaukee Lunch with Steve Kroll

I was greeted by Steve Kroll, one of my leadership mentors. He is Operations Director at an online marketing firm called Rocketclicks, based in Milwaukee, hence my sidetrip to Milwaukee.

Steve took me through Milwaukee’s old “Third (something)” district. Absolutely stunning. All old warehouse-style buildings, totally brick, and…. totally gentrified. Loved it :)

Our destination was a restaurant called (I don’t remember). Here we are just outside the restaurant…


I told Steve that I wanted the authentic Milwaukee experience. Milwaukee beer, Milwaukee food.

I ended up getting both, which as awesome, although more than I bargained for!

Steve suggested – and then warned me – about one particular burger which was a big patty covered in american cheese, some kind of duck fat egg (or something) and bacon. My eyes bulged and a I kinda freaked out when it came out (not usually my style of eating!), but – don’t worry – I didn’t back down. I ate it shamelessly, although felt extremely full afterwards, lol.

And it didn’t stop there. The restaurant had it’s own line of craft beer, brewed in Belgium, but served only at this one, single restaurant in Milwaukee. Super cool! So I just had to experience that too.. It was very tasty and an amazing complement to the meal.

Great conversation with Steve. Super interesting guy… was lucky to have lunch with him. Thanks Steve!

Home of the Champions: Rocketclicks!

Then it was off to Rocketclicks, where Steve is the Director of Operations. Consider this: Rocketclicks oversees over $2M per month of Google Adowrds adspend. They’ve got dozens and dozens of employees that do nothing but internet marketing all day. And very successfully judging by their track record.

(I’ve got a few pics of what RC looks like, but unfortunately haven’t transferred them yet. Will share them in the near future.)

Wow, what a powerhouse… and what a privilege to see behind the scenes of a company that size. If you want to be their client, you basically have to be spending north of $10,000 / month on clicks. Nice!

Milwaukee Stay Extended: Crashing the Party

Steve then graciously invited me to join him to a private party at night. He acknowledged that I would miss my scheduled train back, but I told him I could just catch a later train at 900pm or whatever.

The party was to welcome David Bernstein, a very popular columnist from the New York Times. He, Rocketclicks, and Marquette University (located in Milwaukee) were partnering to bring the idea of “social entrepreneurship” to universities in the U.S.

The party was hosted by a high-ranking gentlemean from Marquette University, in his private home. Here are a few buildings from Marquette campus…


I begain meeting guests at the party and quickly realized what galaxy of people I was surrounded by. The Dean of Business, the Dean of Communications, the President of the Student Council, the Dean of Grad Studies, it goes on and on.

Needless to say, I feelt a little out-ranked, and maybe even like a bit of a party crasher. But in true Francis fashion, I shamelessly mixed and mingled, despite the fact I had basically no business being there, LOL.

Here’s the TF in action…


At one point the host asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves. After a string of 20 people introducing themselves as Dr. so-and-so, Dean of XYZ, and the like, it was my turn. I just said:

“Um, I’m from Canada. And I just happened to be walking by and heard there was free food here.”

That generated a big laugh, but it kinda felt true, LOL!

I also got a chance to meet Rob Sieracki, another marketing mentor. We haven’t really spent much time chatting, but enough to be eager about meeting each other in person. Here I am with Steve Kroll (Rocketclicks) and Rob too…



Shortly thereafter I got to meet the man of the hour, the expert on social business himself, David Bernstein. Originally a Canadian (from Montreal), David Bernstein has written a string of very popular articles in The New York Times on the topic of social business.

If you’ve never overheard talk about KIVA.org, that’s an example of social business. Basically any business that works to make money by solving a world social problem. In KIVA’s example, they offer micro-loans to people in 3rd world countries to start businesses that would help raise them out of poverty.

The key differentiator between these micro-loans and a traditional donation or grant, is that it’s expected that the loans are re-paid. From what I understand, re-paying the loans is actually a powerful experience. Instead of feeling disempowered by a hand-out, they really feel proud of having earned their way, having re-paid their loan and gained self-sufficience. I love that model!

David Bernstein is working to take that kind of effect and spread it to other areas, such as (I think) water conservation and other areas that traditionally have been government-type issues funded by public dollars. Here’s a picture of me with the man himself…


Bit of a Curveball… whoopsies!

Turns out there *wasn’t* any late train, so I was stranded in Milwaukee!

I started threatening a sleep over with the Dean of Communications, which was hilarious. But before things got that far, it turns out that one of the other marketing people there was actually driving back to Chicago immediately after the party, so I got to jump in with him.

When the time was right, I polished off my “Spotted Cow”… more local Milwaukee beer (nice!)… and jumped in with my generous chauffeur. His name was Tim and he had his own PPC marketing company too. Automatically a winner in my books, LOL :)

I’m not sure if it was the sleep debt, or the variety of Milwaukee beers, but I think I was drifting between sleeping and talking for half the ride home.

A day well-spent!

TF :)

P.S. To get my further updates from this trip, throw your name and email address in here….

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kendell September 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Loved your “Day 2” entry, Tim! There’s nothing more purely delicious in life than surrendering to the moment and just being :)


Kyle McNeil September 18, 2012 at 8:08 pm

That deep dish pizza looks incredible!!

Cool update. And yes true to you my friend. What an adventure! Lol


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