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Positive Changes

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  • | 6:44 a.m. September 20, 2013
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Don Abbott is at it again.

The Fort Myers entrepreneur recently formed a company that devised a patented security software program called Offline Switch that lets users disable their Internet connections with a single click or does it automatically if their computer is idle.

A recent victim of hackers, Abbott says Internet pirates bypassed his firewalls and antivirus software to disable his computer. He's invested $25,000 in the software that costs $29.95 at

Abbott, a resident of Sanibel, is no stranger to technology or launching new businesses. He built Abbott Productions as a leading infomercial company that is well known for work in the timeshare industry.

Abbott was also one of the founders of Cheeburger Cheeburger, a chain of hamburger restaurants, and he developed Pulselite, a recognition light controller installed now on 200,000 commercial airplanes. He even created a children's game called Booby Trap that he sold to Parker Brothers.

Abbott is someone you might call a serial entrepreneur. The 74-year-old creates an idea and builds companies. Then, he sells out and moves on. “The fun was building it,” he says.

Not everything Abbott started was a success. For example, he created a hurricane emergency kit that contained first-aid kits, water-purifying tablets and a flashlight. He took out full-page ads in the newspaper and ran promotions on the radio. “We sold, like, five. It was bad,” he chuckles.

The lesson: No one wants to talk about hurricanes or buy protection until a storm hits. “Before you leap, find out if you should leap,” he cautions.

Another setback was American Air Campers, a directory of airports where recreational fliers could camp. Members would have access to the list and other perks for $50 a year. To make it work, Abbott's company needed 12,000 members, but it only reached one-tenth of that despite the fact that there are more than 260,000 aircraft owners and pilots and thousands camp out at big air shows.

But jet fuel spiked in recent years, the recession hit and Abbott pulled the plug on his air camper idea after spending $200,000. An airplane pilot, he donated the organization to a nonprofit. “Timing was the lesson,” he says.

Another lesson: Put a limit on how much money you're willing to spend and move on if it doesn't work. “That's the secret to entrepreneurship. I stuck it out to the limit,” he says.

Abbott's initial success in business was due to the fact that he built his production business by taking a cut of the profits of what his infomercials sold. Abbott Productions would provide as much as $500,000 worth of video and film production in return for a percentage of the profits and royalties. That provided a stream of income that continues today, helping him fund new projects like Offline Switch.

“The reason I moved to Florida was because of timesharing,” Abbott says. He moved from Indiana to Southwest Florida in 1979. “We rode the wave.”

Accentuate the positive
Don Abbott's entrepreneurial ventures have taught him a thing or two about business. He's passed on those lessons in a motivational program called Positive Changes for a Positive Tomorrow. Here's some of the advice Abbott dispenses:

  • Nothing happens until you write it down.
  • Be generous with time, talent and money.
  • Recognize and show respect where it's due.
  • Show enthusiasm, live in moderation and have a positive attitude.
  • A dream is a desire with a deadline.
  • Overcome fear of failure and eliminate negative forces around you.
  • Improve your skills on a daily basis; education never stops.
  • Polish your manners.
  • Pick a secret place just for you so you can go there to review, think and plan.
  • Pass out compliments freely. Notice the best in people and tell them about it.
  • Carry thank you cards in your car so you can mail it right after a meeting. It's hard for someone to back out of a contract or cancel an order when someone has already thanked you for it.

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