Barry Abraham — More About Me

portrait of Barry AbrahamThis is my chance to tell you some things about my life and history, in case you’re interested. It’s a bit lengthy, but here goes.

I’m a proud family man. My wife and I met on a cruise ship called the Galaxy in 1998 (I was working onboard; she was on vacation – but more about that later.) We tied the knot on February 12th, 2000, and have since raised three beautiful children, one boy, and two girls. At this time, one is in high school, one is in college, and one is out of school and embarking on a career. They love to travel, which is in our family DNA. They are all interested in the performing arts and plan to go in that direction for their careers (which also seems to be in our family DNA).

Since 2003, our hometown has been Port St. Lucie, Florida. Before that, we lived in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Before that, I lived in Miami Lakes, Florida. Before that, I lived in Nashville, Tennessee (where I went to eighth grade and high school). And before that, I am from Detroit, Michigan, where my dad worked for Ford. I come from two big families in the Detroit area. I have lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides.

As for my interest in marketing, that goes back to the mid-nineties. For some reason, I always gravitated to books about marketing when in bookstores. The mid-nineties was also when I bought my first computer, a Toshiba Satellite laptop. I was determined to master the word processor so I could write, organize, and print documents but I tried to learn as many things on it as I could. In 1998, I started to make websites with software programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver. At that time, though, I had a completely different occupation: professional entertainer. (That story, next…)

My years as a traveling entertainer (32, total)

When I was twelve, my dad received a job offer to work for Nissan in Smyrna, Tennessee, which is just outside of Nashville. A couple of weeks before we moved, one of my cousins taught me a technique for juggling three balls called the three-ball “cascade.” I found juggling to be extremely fun and even a bit addicting. By the time I was fourteen, I was juggling with knives, fire, and had begun doing small performances in the Nashville area. In my final years of high school, I became a well-paid, regular fixture in the local entertainment scene. I performed at parties, corporate events, in nightclubs, and was even the opening act for a few country music stars. From my middle teens, I started focusing on the goal of being a featured entertainer on cruise ships. I graduated high school in 1986 and then had a series of jobs doing my juggling act in traveling road shows. Then, finally, I got my first cruise ship offer. I boarded the Regent Sea cruise ship at the end of July, 1989 in Vancouver, Canada, and headed for Alaska on my first cruise ever. The next twenty-nine years were an amazing and wonderful dream, which included working on thirteen cruise lines, sixty-four cruise ships, traveling to ninety-six countries, and meeting my wife. It was truly spectacular, and I pinched myself every day. It’s still hard for me to believe it was real. I’m incredibly grateful to the cruise industry, as well as anyone and everyone who helped me get that opportunity.

“What’s Next?” (The two words that haunted me)

My original plan was to work cruises until I was about thirty, traveling and saving money, which cruise ship work is good for because you don’t have to pay for food, housing, utilities, and other expenses. Then I would transition to another kind of work that didn’t involve traveling. What would that other kind of work be? I didn’t know. I thought about it often, but never had an idea that seemed perfectly fitting. As I went through my twenties, entered my thirties, and became a family man, the question of “what’s next” began to take greater urgency. I had various interests and learned some skills, including web design, SEO (search engine optimization), photography, and video editing. I even became a licensed talent agent for a time and was booking two different acts on cruise ships. This was all while still traveling on ships myself. Frankly, I went a bit bonkers trying to decide what I wanted to do (or could do) next. It seemed that anything I chose would have a difficult road to success, realistically, at a time when I had a young family. I was surprised at how difficult it was to answer the “what’s next” question, but I was equally surprised at how long my cruise ship career was lasting. Not only did it not fade out after ten years, it got better and better, ultimately lasting until I was forty-nine years old! (And it could have been longer had I not been truly ready to transition.)

I never burnt out even slightly from working on cruise ships, but there was a long list of reasons why I wanted to transition, including that I had a family I wanted to be with, I had the energy and ambition to accomplish something else, twenty-nine years was a long time on ships (I had been there, done that), I felt that I was outgrowing and out-aging the act I was doing, and I always liked the original plan for my life – transition and stop traveling.

Note: During those traveling years, I was home with my family about half the time. We were rarely separated for more than a couple of weeks at once. My job as a sub-contracting entertainer allowed for that flexibility, fortunately.

In 2008, when the economy crashed and everything seemed uncertain, I made a significant and somewhat strange move: I bought a well-established roof and pressure cleaning business based on the West coast of Florida. I planned to learn that business without being sure if we would move to that side of Florida. As it happened, I ended up in a partnership with the previous owner, and he continued to manage it while I opened another version of it in Port St. Lucie. This business was meant to be a backup for if I was suddenly out of work on cruise ships, and it served that purpose. It gave us something else. But fortunately, I was never out of work on cruise ships. The dates kept coming and we were okay. I had partners on both coasts to keep the pressure cleaning businesses going for a few years. But during that time, I learned that it was harder to get new pressure cleaning customers than I thought it would be. Advertising was expensive, and it didn’t lead to many calls. So, I focused hard on marketing. This led me to read the book “Google AdWords for Dummies,” which was like a lightning bolt. When I was halfway through that book, I thought, “To heck with roof and pressure cleaning… I want to be a Google AdWords expert!” In the next couple of years, I dedicated almost all my waking hours to mastering Google AdWords and other related areas of marketing, such as website creation, analytics, Facebook ads, and much more. Also, fortunately, I was able to sell both pressure cleaning businesses. Finally, I had found the answer to the agonizing question of “what’s next.” It would be the marketing business for me. I loved it. It was lightning striking again, just like learning to juggle and wanting to be an entertainer. I was excited.

Starting my marketing agency

It was 2011 when I first started building my marketing agency. Of course, I started mostly focused on managing Google AdWords campaigns for clients since that was my main specialty. But it wasn’t long until I expanded my list of services since I realized that my clients and prospects were interested in other things, such as websites and social media. In between cruise ship contracts, I went to networking meetings and chambers of commerce to introduce myself and promote my business in the Treasure Coast area. On several occasions, I was invited to do presentations to teach Google AdWords, which was a big help for getting my business off the ground. I managed to both build my agency and work on cruise ships for a period of about seven years. The key to being able to do both was that clients understood I would not be easily available by phone – email needed to be the primary form of communication. As long as I made this clear from the beginning (which I always did), it was never a problem. By 2018, I had a solid foundation of clients for my marketing business. Also, the cruise ship work started to slow down. Without knowing it was the end, I did my last ship contract in March of 2018 on the Holland America Maasdam, going from Huatulco, Mexico to Lima, Peru. After that, like always, I went home and focused on my marketing agency. I didn’t get calls (or make calls) to book more cruises. It was a gentle and welcome transition. I then learned what it was like to live at home normally: feeling the difference between weekdays and weekends, being a bigger part of the lives of my wife and kids, and even feeling a part of my local community — which I had never felt before because I had been traveling since graduating high school (a total of 32 years).

Getting “Shameless”

Meeting people through networking meetings had become an important part of my life and business. It was something I enjoyed. In fact, I began co-hosting some casual lunch meetings at a pizza restaurant in the area for the purpose of networking. My cohost, Mark Kovalsky, and I would invite a few people to lunch and then let the conversation flow naturally so that people got to know each other. It was fun, but we weren’t firmly committed to keeping it going. I was still traveling on cruises and Mark had a lot going on too. After a while, we stopped. In the Spring of 2018, though, we decided to start a new event and be more committed to it. It would be a Wednesday morning event called Shameless Promotion and Muffins. We wanted it to be more fun than the typical events we were used to, so we gave it a silly name. Shameless Promotion and Muffins (a.k.a. SPAM) has taken place every single Wednesday for over six years now, and the streak is still going. We’ve never missed a Wednesday. As Mark and I like to say, “The shamelessness must go on!” It’s fun, and it’s led to the formation of many great relationships and partnerships in our community. To learn more about SPAM, go to www.ShamelessPromotion.biz.

The Road Ahead

Now in my fifties, I’m very aware of how blessed I have been. My family gives me so much joy. Every day with them fills my heart with love and gratitude. I lament the fact that time has gone so fast, and that our kids are around us less and less. It leaves me confused and wanting to turn back the clock. Also, I am confused when I look in the mirror. I don’t feel as old as I look or as I am. But I know to be thankful for the many great things in my life.

As for work, I really feel that lightning struck twice for me. In my teens, it was for juggling and entertainment. It gave me so much excitement; so many hopes and dreams to pursue. In my early forties, it was Internet marketing. To this day, I can never get enough of reading and learning about that field. I’m a total junkie. My plan is to keep forging and ahead in the field of Internet marketing, keeping up with the changes, and finding ways to help businesses get more exposure and growth. My passion for the performing arts, though, still lives in me. I have plans to return to some cruise ship work again as a standup comedian. Hopefully, in three to five years from now.

In Closing

This is a long bio, and I’d be surprised if many people read the whole thing. But if you did, I’m honored to have held your attention for so long. Thanks for reading. I hope to see you soon, help you with marketing, or make you laugh on a cruise ship.