The Blog

Posted: 09/18/2018

I began my first web/application based business about 10 years ago. When it comes to hosting and development services I've had plenty of experience as a client and as a provider. The decision of where to host your website is consequential. Here, in brief, are some thoughts I'd like you to consider:

  • Starting with the simple stuff; it is important that you know that the 'host' of your site is where all of the code, files, images, etc. reside. The party in control of the host is in control of this content. If this is not you, then your ownership of (and access to) this content is guaranteed only by agreement or contract with the controlling party.
  • What's wrong with someone else controlling the hosting of your website? Maybe nothing. It's convenient and frees you from having to worry about a ton of technical considerations including backup & recovery, security, performance, etc.
  • However I recommend that you have an agreement that clearly states your rights, and exit plan in the event you wish to part ways with a provider (or in the event the provider ceases to operate - which happens).
  • Exit plans can vary in complexity. Simple plans would include the transfer of all site and database files, sufficient for a competent developer to re-launch your website somewhere else. You may request periodic backups of these files be made accessible to you. More complicated websites and applications require specific server-level resources and documentation. If yours is a more complicated website or web application, I'd make sure you have a plan in place ASAP, as these can be much more difficult to reassemble elsewhere without the support of your existing developer/provider.
  • Where the site is hosted is also important. There are many great platforms out there. If you are hosting through a developer, ask them where you are being hosted. Are you paying premium prices for a slice of someone's shared hosting account? What level of access to (and control over) the server do they have? Is it a web based management program like CPanel? Do they have SSH level control over a virtual machine? What resources are allocated to your site? There aren't necessarily wrong answers to these questions, but you should make sure you are getting value for what you spend. Information on your hosting configuration will also help you plan for contingencies later.
  • Additionally, knowing about your hosting environment will allow you to assess whether your resources match your needs.

These are just a handful of considerations when picking a hosting provider, or assessing the provider you have. They come to mind as I've had several occasions to be on both the client and provider sides of this equation. Charles Creative offers hosting, exclusively on virtual private servers, but this is not the best fit for all our clients.

Two big questions to ask yourself before choosing to host with any developer:

  • "Am I interested in entering into a medium to long-term relationship with this developer?"
  • "Do I intend to use any other (internal or external) developer in this period?"

I know this only scratches the surface. Please contact me if you want to discuss your specific situation.

Happy Creating,


Posted: 07/19/2018

The key decent marketing, and to being a marketing consultant, is in understanding the balance of Internal Relevance and External Relevance. External Relevance is your brand in relation to what's going on the world at large and what's going on with your target audience specifically. Internal Relevance is the heart of your brand and the value it creates for your target customers. I've made this observation before, but I'm continually amazed by how many people get this wrong. Here's what it looks like when they do:

Getting External Relevance wrong are brands jumping on to holidays and trending hashtags with commercials, posts, or promotions for products that have no relation to the topic of the day. Not every restaurant should be making posts about St Patrick's day. Some shit just doesn't need to be sold on the 4th of July, no more so than on any other day. Just stop it already.

Getting Internal Relevance wrong are business owners and consultants that fail to understand the meaning of their goods/services as perceived by customers. You can work to shape that meaning, particularly by adding context. Telling the story of a business's founder, the history of a recipe, the philanthropic work they do, etc., all add context about the business and can be done to great effect. It is very easy to get this wrong however, and consumers today can sniff a whiff of bullshit through an ornate tin can. Modern advertising has groomed consumers to be experts at perceiving authenticity; fakers beware.

The balance is the work. Too many people avoid the actual work part. We're all guilty of it from time to time. Jumping to ambitious goals, to planning out and mapping the creative elements of design, video, content - all of that feels like the work we're being paid to do. It's not, not entirely. The real work is in doing your research in advance, in knowing your limitations and the limitations of the brand. The hard part is asking yourself and your team, "Do we have evidence that this is the best way to turn marketing dollars into sales?" Harder still is, "Are we the right team for this project?"

I've been meaning to write a new post for months... thanks for reading.

Posted: 06/05/2017
New Drupal Platform in Development, by Charles Creative

As part of our continuing dedication to community service, Charles Creative is developing a powerful Drupal site for our local elementary school. It has 10 content types, 6 stakeholder/editor groups, and is designed to be managed by 100's of stakeholders. We've worked closely with these groups from the start, incorporating ideas and ensuring usability. More when it's launched!

7/31 UPDATE: The site has launched and is currently undergoing some fine-tuning while team members add content. See here:

In related Drupal news, we have created a page specifically for the CMS platform. For large websites with multiple stakeholders and complex content and sales systems, it is our first choice. More here.

Posted: 05/03/2017
Business Strategy by Jeff Sites at Charles Creative

I teach to business students at a local university and start my strategy courses with some version of the following mantra:

We study the frameworks and methodologies of business strategy in order to be structured and systematic in our decision making; to increase our chances of reaching the best available course of action; and as a way to communicate our thought process as leaders so that our ideas might be fully understood, implemented with their aims and constraints in mind, and be openly scrutinized for errors and omissions.

Hardly a class goes by that I do not bring it up in some form. Partly to continue to convey the usefulness of the material. Partly because it may well be the only thing they remember after 5 years. Honestly though, that is probably enough. If you can remember that there are a number of foundational rules by which most successful decision-makers conduct themselves you will know to seek out a refresher when the need arises.

This week was the last of the semester. For the final, student groups presented business plans to the leaders of 4 local organizations. The presentations marked the end of 5 weeks of moderately strenuous group work, the end of a semester full of jargon and case studies, and for most - one of last graded activities of their undergraduate career. I sort of botched it last year by missing an opportunity to say something meaningful to a room full of students and the business and creative leaders to whom they were to present.

Last night I fleshed out the mantra a bit for the occasion:

Be Systematic

Being systematic helps you avoid blind spots. Structure and sound assumptions form the foundation of good decisions. They free the creative mind to innovate, and open a world of nearly limitless possibilities for the left-brained.

Better the Odds

None of us see the full future and not enough of us even see the present. When assessing where we are in life or business, if we forget to also look at the assumptions that got us here, we are at a disadvantage in creating the future we want. Goals require vision and action - this is the vision part.

Method Communicates

Being a leader does not mean having the right answers so much as it means knowing the right answers when you see them. The system of thinking that derives these answers is also the best way to communicate them to your subordinates and superiors. Strategies without context often have a short shelf life. This is just a process. It is all process. There is only one destination, after all.

Posted: 08/24/2016
Business Coaching by Charles Creative

We have revamped our Business Boost service, standardizing the engagements but leaving the deliverables wide open - so that we can continue to provide our diverse services to help you grow your business. I like to think of it as Business Coaching with outcomes. Our deliverables can include web and technology, media, design, strategy and financial projections, or even a full business plan. This is what we love to do. While we always add a dash of business strategy with every engagement, the Business Boost is a service focused first on helping you do what you do, better. New and growing businesses are a challenge and a thrill at the same time. Let us be a part of your team and we'll help you take your venture to new levels.

Posted: 03/03/2016
Tom and Jeff doing some computer science

Some computer science over lunch. Tom and I don't get to work in the same room very often, so we snapped a quick selfie as evidence that it's possible. Some fine app building going on.

Posted: 01/25/2016
Loyola Marymount College of Business Adminsitration

Friends, colleagues and clients in the Los Angeles area: I am teaching a course on Business Strategy to Seniors at Loyola Marymount University this semester. Toward the end of the semester (March & April) they will be doing a “living business” case study. Contact me if you think you or your organization would be interested in taking part. It will be strategy-oriented with actionable recommendations for your organization. They are interested in (among others): Music, Film, Entrepreneurial & Small Businesses, Real Estate, Non-profit & For-benefit, etc. It will be fun. -Jeff

Posted: 10/16/2015

We published a brief video explaining our Business Boost retainer packages. This is an all in one retainer package that includes a combination of web development, SEO analysis, business strategy, and mixed media projects. The Business Boost is the ideal package for new and growing businesses looking to stand out in the crowd.

See More Here

Shout out to Brandon and Beeline Media for the "helping hand" illustration!

Posted: 08/02/2015

Published a new interview with Ronald Bruner Sr on Soundcloud. Working on scheduling a few more in the coming months, in and out of the music industry. I have a passion for working with Entrepreneurs and go-getters. The interviews are an extension of my curiosity and enthusiasm for learning how different people, successful on different levels, approach and overcome challenges. I find it inspiring and informative and hope you do too.


Posted: 05/15/2015

Check out our Oaks of Sherman project if you haven't yet. We're currently doing a really powerful engagement with Hope of the Valley's Genesis House. Our members are stepping up and supporting the organization with their unique skills and expertise. Look for a wrap-up summary, and probably a celebration soon.