Friday, April 25, 2008

In a complicated world, simple still works

I just completed a series of interviews with Bob Regular, the editor and publisher of, which is a terrific web publication with a core audience of movers and shakers in the e-commerce industry. These are the folks who have set up shop on Web 2.0

The interview reminded me of how much our society has evolved in the way we communicate because the interviews will be in both text and video format on the Adotas web site. Just a couple of weeks ago I was a guest on “FOX & Friends®” and also on the “FOX Business Channel.” These were both traditional media interviews. However, a few minutes later these same interviews were available on the “FOX News®” web site. This time around was again a video interview with Adotas, but streamed directly to you via the Internet accompanied with a text version.

Bob Regular (left) of interviews John W. Scherer

During the one-hour interview, we focused on just how Video Professor has grown and succeeded for 21 years by keeping our communications processes simple.

Video Professor is a vertically integrated company. Our creative services, web design, SEO, public affairs, legal and marketing are all under one roof. We even have our own television studio and our creative teams, who work in both video and the Internet, have all the bells and whistles to produce spectacular material.

What we’ve learned thus far is that you can’t let these bells, whistles and other toys distract from the message.

Outside vendors, contractors, web design companies etc, come to us every day with all sorts of ideas. They tell us to fancy this up, or add elements to this and that. The few times we actually listened, it didn’t work.

I think this is especially the case with social media. What is often lost in the conversation is the importance of clarity of message. Does it pass the “so what” test?

Our commercials and infomercials focus more on our product than the pizzazz, the value and benefit instead of the gaudy flash. The same goes for our web site. It’s basic, easy-to-navigate and gets you where you want to go with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.

This makes selling easy and service after the sale even easier. It’s worked for 21 years and we plan on being around for much longer! This isn’t about resisting change, but actually embracing change without losing focus on the simplicity of the message. There are multiple pipelines to consumers these days and we use them all. Customers are busy, they want to find out what we have to offer, and then order what they want. If they need help after the sale, getting service should be just as quick and easy. As I told Regular during our interview, everyone in this building is focused on the customer. It’s simple, but it works.

During my interview, I was asked more than once to give advice to the young entrepreneurs just starting out.

First and foremost you have to get your brand out there. When we were starting out at Video Professor, we quickly found out that television was a good way to do this. However, it was, and still is expensive. But, you have to have your name and product or service available to as many eyeballs as possible. For us, the investment paid off.

The visibility through our commercials and infomercials has made transitioning our brand to the Web much easier than if we were starting from scratch. The Web, web sites and social networks can be much cheaper and just as efficient for new businesses today.

Your web site design must be clean, uncluttered and easy to navigate. Your customer comes to your site to either learn more about your product or to buy it. Make it simple.

You should maintain a relentless focus on customer service throughout the process. You will get complaints. They are part of business. But, how you field these issues could be the difference between success and failure.

Don’t let a very few negatives slow you down, keep your focus on that 99 percent of successful sales.

Looking back at the last 21 years and looking forward to the next 21 years, I remain so very excited about what we’ve accomplished the millions we’ve taught and the terrific new products and services we have planned for the future.

We plan to always keep it simple and direct. You can count on everyone at Video Professor to provide you with the tools that make learning easy and if you ever have a question or concern, we’re just a phone call or e-mail away.


John W. Scherer, CEO & founder, Video Professor, Inc.

You can contact me at

Thursday, April 17, 2008

If we all give a little, together we can make a big difference.

All of us here at Video Professor have “adopted” a young soldier from Ft. Hood, Texas who is currently deployed in southern Iraq. He contacted us last fall to help him out getting a laptop computer with a webcam. As a PFC, his salary doesn’t allow for such things. His wife and young daughter will not see him again for about 15 months. With the laptop and webcam he’ll be able to send video messages back home so when he returns safely, his daughter will still know her daddy.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent e-mail he sent us.

“Yeah so I am in-country Im staying at FOP Falcon in southern Baghdad its not a great area at all and the cease fire between sunis and shiites was just thrown out the window and the one who stopped it called on "a million men to rise up and kill americans" so this deployment might be interusting LOL we have been taking mortar and RPG attacks on the FOP just about everyday and when we flew in on the choppers they tried shooting mine down but since they just spray and pray they are not really accurate at all.”


Imagine having all this as part of your typical work day. He volunteered for this mission. But this young trooper, along with tens of thousands of others is taking the fight to the enemy so we can work, play and enjoy life safely here at home.

I am so very, very proud of him and all those who service. We have an employee club here at Video Professor called Seasons. We’ll be collecting items he’s requested for him and his unit. It’s simply the stuff we all take for granted. Razors, wet wipes and of course, cookies!

Our team is already at work gathering boxes and boxes of goodies and we’ll be shipping them off to his unit shortly.

I know this war has both its supporters and detractors. But we can all agree that the incredible sacrifices made by these men and women who wear the uniform are again done so voluntarily. Regardless of your support of the war, I encourage you not to forget them one single day.

There are numerous ways to support these troops including the USO, the Fisher House and many others. But be careful when supporting any charity. There are some out there who claim to help out and simply spend the money on salaries and fancy offices. A good way to check is to go to to find out which are the most efficient in making sure what you donate, goes to where it is supposed to.

Also on the subject of giving, we got a wonderful thank you note from Mag Strittmatter who is the Executive Director of the Jefferson County Action Center. She thanked Video Professor’s employee club, Seasons, for donating Easter Baskets and also personal items for the growing number of people the Center serves.

We also got a kind note from Jean Owens of the Five Acres project in Altadena, CA. They work with abused kids through treatment and education including computer literacy. Five Acres is one of several non-profits that include computer literacy in their programs that we provide lessons to each year.

These thank you notes are always appreciated, but I often feel it’s we who should be saying thanks. Thanks for the opportunity to give and make a difference, but especially thanks for the good feeling one has when doing so.


John W. Scherer

CEO and Founder, Video Professor, Inc.

Contact me at

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is all the talk about green really about the green?

Two stories caught my attention this past week. The first was a cover story by TIME® Magazine about ethanol, which describes this alternative fuel as a scam. A great deal of money is being spent to promote ethanol, which is made from corn and sugarcane. It is supposed to make the U.S. less reliant on foreign oil. At least one domestic automobile company makes a majority of its cars and trucks to run on both conventional and ethanol fuels.

The other story involves former Vice President Al Gore’s $300 million campaign to mobilize the nation for a huge reduction in greenhouse emissions. An article in the Washington Post® newspaper called “Gore Launches Ambitious Advocacy Campaign on Climate” says that Gore’s campaign is, “One of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history.” I’ve seen the spots; they’re very well done.

I’m all for anything to make our planet cleaner, we waste too much, pollute too much and I know that we can do better. Our own efforts in providing Video Professor® tutorials online, uploaded directly to your computer instead of using CD-ROM’s with all the packaging, could certainly be characterized as a green initiative. Truth be known, it’s simply a quicker and more efficient way for you to learn from our ever-growing list of computer tutorial lessons. Streaming directly to your computer does save a lot of trees. But, we think it’s both fair and honest to simply promote ease of use to you as a customer.

Another point about ethanol; producing it from corn actually takes more energy than it generates. It’s also impacting the price you pay for corn-based products at the grocery store. TIME claims that one person could be fed for 365 days on the amount of corn needed to fill up one SUV with ethanol, check out what passes for corn at some supermarkets. The puny little ears of corn are given to us, while the good stuff goes to ethanol plants.

TIME reports sugarcane-based ethanol does actually deliver as far as energy efficiency, but at the expense of potentially wiping out jungle areas like the Amazon rain forest. There’s a remarkable picture in the article to back it up, showing areas of the Amazon looking more like the plains of Nebraska.

Some supporters of Gore’s campaign are among those who rail against nuclear power and oil. Yet France, for example, produces 80 percent of its power with nuclear plants. Norway allows oil drilling along 80 percent of its coastline, which is as an example of all that is good about government and society.

In contrast, here in the U.S., regulatory rules make it all but impossible to build new refineries, or tap into the proven and immense oil reserves off the coast of California and Alaska. As for nuclear power, forget about it.

It seems, at least to me, that the biggest obstacles towards a genuine and productive debate about keeping this planet pristine are politics and the almighty dollar. You know, the greenback. Pun intended.

However, we cannot forget that not only are China and India emerging industrial powers, they are polluting far more than the U.S. More than one Olympic athlete is concerned about competing this summer in Beijing because of the incredibly polluted air. Bicycles are being replaced by extremely inefficient cars that cause pollution in both nations, as workers can now afford to buy them. These countries have far less stringent emissions policies than we do. One of the reasons gasoline is becoming so expensive is the demand from China and India.

To their credit, American consumers are turning more and more to hybrid cars. Ironically it was General Motors that had the technology decades ago, but they weren’t prepared to take the initial loss of actually producing a hybrid electric car. Gas was cheap and plentiful, and oh how we loved those big Buicks and Caddies. However, the situation has changed and this time it is Toyota who is ready to play the hybrid game. Game, set, match.

If we’re going to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk. An hour on the evening of Saturday, March 29 was reserved for a so-called Earth Hour; a time to turn off the lights and everything electric. “NBC® News” promoted it heavily. “NBC” regularly reports on global warming, unless there’s a snowstorm. “NBC” is owned by GE and guess what? The lights on the GE building were ablaze against the New York City skyline during the whole hour, just like the hour before and the hour after.

I have nothing against people making a profit on green technology. Wind and solar power are two examples that come to mind. Two companies that produce wind-generated power are located here in Colorado. We welcome them. I hope they make a dandy profit for their efforts. My problem is with people who try and make a buck by marketing something as green when really it isn’t. Like ethanol.

So when the next big green thing comes along, read between the lines. I fear that the heavy marketing of going green may actually dilute the importance of the bigger message. Green could end up like the Atkins® diet. Hot for a while, then it simply disappears. Planet Earth and the maintenance thereof shouldn’t be a fad.

In the meantime, recycle. It’s a start and you know for sure you’re making a difference.

John W. Scherer, CEO & founder, Video Professor, Inc.
You can reach me at

Friday, April 04, 2008

My week in the Big Apple and appearing on “FOX News”

Being the Video Professor, I appear on television frequently. When I’m not on the air doing commercials, I’m spending time doing interviews like I just did in New York City on both the “FOX Business Channel” and “FOX & Friends® programs.”

About the only similarity between a commercial and television news is the television part. Otherwise everything is different. Commercials are scripted, taped and if you make a mistake you can do it all over again.

News, on the other hand, is live, which really makes the whole experience exciting. While it was my first appearance on the new “FOX Business Channel,” this was my third time on “FOX & Friends.”

As usual, “FOX News®” takes great care of their guests. Everyone on their staff including producers, the technical crew and of course the various program hosts and anchors are simply the nicest and most professional people you’d ever want to meet. They even sent a car to my hotel to get me to the studio for both appearances.

“FOX Business Channel” is a recent addition to the “FOX News” network. They’ve assembled a terrific team of people and are quickly becoming the television source for business news. I think what makes “FOX Business Channel” stand out is they really understand they are communicating with both Wall Street and Main Street, USA. They make business news easy to understand, whether you own a business or you’re a consumer.

FOX Business News Anchor Peter Barnes with John W. Scherer

Each appearance starts with a trip to makeup. Then you wait for your segment to begin in the green room. It’s a comfortable place to sit and watch the broadcast, catch a snack or a much needed cup of coffee when you’re appearing on an early morning news show, like I did. Usually other guests are there as well, so it’s also a good place to meet people.

Then a staff member takes you up to the studio, they clip a microphone on you and all of a sudden you’re live. It’s amazing how fast it all happens. When I shoot our commercials and infomercials we can spend two full days shooting segments. But when it’s live, you better be ready with your message because you get just one chance to get it right.

Getting miked and ready to go live!

What made the experience both easy and fun were the anchors at “FOX News.” I’ve worked with Peter Barnes on “FOX Business” and my friends Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy on “FOX & Friends” before, but I was thrilled to meet Gretchen Carlson for the first time. All of them are exactly like you see them on the air; friendly, energetic and gracious.

L-R Steve Doocy, John W. Scherer, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade

“FOX News” really does live up to its reputation of being fair and balanced. What makes them special is that they are a kind, decent and caring group of professionals.

Special thanks go to David Brown, the Executive Producer of “FOX & Friends,” along with “FOX News” producers Laurie Weiner, Elise Sabbath, Michelle Brier and Shayla Bezdrob. They’re talented, professional and quite simply, just some very nice folks.

I can’t wait to go back and see them again.


John W. Scherer, CEO & founder, Video Professor, Inc.

You can reach me by e-mail at