Business of Evolution

December 7, 2008 | 2 Comments

Category: Auto-Biography, Society

When I was young, in college and before, I collected work experiences.  I’ve been fired from two jobs in my life.  The rest I quit when I got bored.  Working to make money felt like an adventure.  At one point, I counted 40 different jobs that I had tried.  I was taking an artist’s path through my family’s business frame of reference.  With hard-working, merchant/business Jews on both sides of my family, with almost every male running his own businesses, I sought a path where I could work and yet enjoy it.  After graduating from college, this work-as-adventure frame continued as I proceeded to work my way through several professions.

1 Girdle and Bra factory vice president (I worked for my dad out of college for a year and a bit.)
2 Free Lance Illustrator and graphic design
3 Greeting Card Manufacturer (publishing my paintings as greeting cards)
4 Greeting Card Independent Representative (ran a firm working for more than 100 businesses over 19 years)
5 Cartoon Strip & Panel Artist (Off the Deep End & Lehman were in almost 200 fringe publications)
6 Comic Art Syndicator (represented 12 comic artists to the alternative press)
7 Comic Art Publisher (Free monthly distributed in Chicago and Ann Arbor)
8 Puppet Manufacturer (with wife & dad’s factory created 60-character puppet line sold nationwide)
9 Web Design Firm (with wife and 4 staff members, we manage almost 400 websites) see

Two of the businesses made enough to feed a family.  The repping firm allowed me to try several other professions (5, 6, 7 and 8 above) during those 19 years.  The web design firm allows me to spend almost half my time working to develop PJEP, a nationwide network of networks, a resource-packed, high-tech communication/cooperation commons for local peace, justice and environmental organizations.  The web design firm has some interesting characteristics that allow me some of the sense of adventure I experienced as a teenager trying all kinds of jobs.  I get to learn new professions, vicariously.

About 80 new firms join Andrew Lehman Design each year.  Sometimes we take over established sites.  Often, we have built new websites from scratch.  When we build a new site, I sit down with the owners (we work almost exclusively with small, local businesses) and learn what they do and how best to communicate their profession in the quasi-narrative format of the web.  I am good at this.  As an artist of ideas attracted to evolutionary processes, I enjoy focusing on this intersection between business and society.  I get to understand the nature of a specific business, and then I design website visitor access in a fashion where integration of that profession into society feels seamless.

My specialty within my firm is search engine optimization.  While exploring how best a business might share its central focus and achieve its website goals, I note how the website needs to be constructed to achieve high rankings in search engines.  By pure chance, I began tracking Google’s search algorithms shortly after they went into business.  Their name jumped out at me from a list of hundreds of unknown companies.  I ended up a Google expert early in my career.  This expertise has helped me to keep clients because high rankings for targeted phrases are perhaps the most important thing a website can achieve.

Over a 30-year stretch, I’ve had detailed discussions with perhaps 7,000 people on what exactly it is that they do.  In 1980, I started repping my own greeting card reproductions of watercolors, which led to my becoming a rep for other companies.  These days, I frequently sit down with people starting a new business or looking for a website for their established business.  In college and after college, I had some training to become a therapist.  This is different.  I’ve developed an intuition for the nature of small business, how to start one and what is required to communicate the essence of that firm.

I suspect this experience has contributed to the multiscale nature of the theories I explore inside this blog.  As one intimate with small business, I’ve observed up close the effects of environment on the health of individual firms and the power of individual imagination to propel an idea into a growing concern.  When I drive unfamiliar streets, often in the back of my mind I’m tabulating the kinds of businesses I’m seeing and sorting them into commercial patterns that I’m familiar with.  I feel embedded in the evolutionary process of business formation, birth, growth and demise as I perform my job, which is to make it easy for my clients to express what it is that they do and how they can serve, making themselves useful to the community.

I often wonder what it would have been like to have received an advanced degree in evolutionary biology or anthropology and spent my life conducting research and teaching classes.  I suspect that an academic environment, though infused with interesting ideas, may have served poorly as an incubator for the types of hypotheses I’ve formed.  Strangely, business has offered me a laboratory that academia cannot reproduce.  Observing business, and the individuals creating those businesses, I’ve received a schooling no university could ever offer.

Observing the birth, growth and death of thousands of businesses, I live and work within the embrace of evolution.


This entry was posted on Sunday, December 7th, 2008 at 7:53 am and is filed under Auto-Biography, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Comments so far

  1. James Oates on December 7, 2008 6:41 pm

    I enjoyed your article. That sounds like an interesting life. I find myself somewhat envious because I believe that I would enjoy those experiences as well.

    I also concur that everything has its cycle and change and evolution happens whether we are prepared/ready or not.



  2. design jobs on December 8, 2008 9:56 am

    I enjoyed your article. That sounds like an interesting life.

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