Entrepreneurs Management Marketing

Where are the CEOs?

Even the business journals have noticed the retail impact of the predictable movement to upscale, natural pet food.

Yet the CEOs of the companies that make it STILL haven’t come out of their myopia and managed to hit national TV, Oprah, etc.

I really hope you aren’t making the same mistake.

I can think of several other industries (which include lots of small businesses) that are facing similar, substantial challenges, some that could be more serious than the pet food thing.

Where are their CEOs?

For that matter, where are YOU?

Once again, here’s a gift: If the CEO of Joe’s Natural Dog Munchems isn’t smart enough to send Oprah a 500lb bag of dog food and a small bag for every audience member, are YOU?

Look at what Rock Creek Coffee’s master coffee roaster Joel Gargaro did last weekend. That’s a start. Have some brass and step out there. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Entrepreneurs Management Software

Ballmer in USA Today

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is the focus of an interview in today’s issue of USA Today.

Two comments struck me, and took me back to my career at Ross Perot’s EDS and later to my time as a software company owner.

First, he spoke of the uniqueness of his being one of very few #1 or #2 guys in a company that went from 30 employees to 77000 employees. This reminded me of being at EDS (not as CEO<g>) when they had 15k employees, having GM buy us, and watching the maelstrom as we went to 45k employees in a very short period of time. Imagine the change, however gradual it might have been for him, of being in charge as your business grows from 30 employees to 77k. And you think YOUR business is different.

Second, he noted how surprised he was at how much different the CEO job. He noted that it is more different than he ever could have guessed, and followed with…

“I would never have believed I could feel more accountable than I already did for Microsoft.”

One curious comment from him about digital rights management: “Every recording artist, in my opinion, is entitled to make their own decision. And I don’t think Apple or Microsoft should be imposing its will on folks.” (about that)

As is typical for Ballmer, he never seems to let an opportunity to gig the competition get away from him, calling IBM, Apple and Google “one trick ponies”, though he later says that it’s good for Google and for Microsoft to compete with one another. Obviously.

Its a worthwhile read with some instructive thoughts sprinkled throughout. Read it, file it for later.

PS: Ballmer admits that he feels like throttling Bill Gates every now and then. Maybe he IS a regular guy:)

Entrepreneurs Good Examples Marketing

Think and take advantage.

This weekend I’m at Ken McCarthy’s System in Chicago, a who’s who assemblage of internet marketers, along with a fair serving of those new to marketing their business on the internet.

Ken puts together a great program, and it’s not the same group of people who would do or say anything to sell you something. It’s an assembly of real people with real successes who are genuinely interested in helping others do what they did. For those who dont know him, Ken is one of the down to earth, regular nice guys in internet marketing business – and that alone makes him stand out in a world of shovel sellers. A real class act.

Just before heading up to the room tonight, I ran into one of my Glazer-Kennedy Inner Circle Montana Chapter members here, Joel from Billings’ Rock Creek Coffee, which just thrilled me. Why? Because seeing people who are making a concerted effort to improve themselves and their business is exciting. So many people are in “build it and they will come” mode, but not Joel.

Even better, Joel went one better than just showing up and turned it into a lesson for my readers.

Rather than just showing up, he Fedex’d a pound of Rock Creek Coffee to the hotel. More specifically, he sent one pound each, addressed to each member of Ken’s faculty. Brilliant, grass roots marketing that will promote his product and his business in a very smart, but inexpensive way.

Taking advantage of opportunity sometimes means thinking a little.

Compass needed Entrepreneurs Politics

Getting beyond the irony of ethics

Ever notice that the media makes special mention of the job or volunteer efforts of a sex offender when that person is a priest or a Scout leader? Or makes a point about a â??formerâ? Eagle Scout being arrested for a crime?

The obvious reason is to get your attention, to get you to buy the newspaper or keep your finger off the remote controlâ??s channel button. They know that the irony of those situations grab you. Irony is powerful stuff.

Why? Because your expectations for the priest, the Scout leader and the Eagle Scout are already formed in your mind, and their story shatters those expectations.

Hopefully, your expectations are that the priest is a celibate and trusted man of God who loves children, rather than lusting for them.

Likewise, I hope you expect the Scout leader and the Eagle Scout are Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent (the 12 points of the Scout Law), instead of felonious, creepy, and perverse.

Given recent history, itâ??s not surprising that the expectations for corporate execs and elected officials are so much lower. We have so many examples to choose from: Savings and loan failures, Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing. You know the names.

And then of course, there is Washington.

With annoying regularity over the last 20 years, Congressional reps, Senators, and White House staffers have paraded into hearings for one thing or another. One rep probably found it amazing that he wasnâ??t trusted outside his home state because law enforcement found 90 grand in his freezer. I suppose that behavior might be normal for elected officials, but for the rest of usâ?¦.well, it’s a bit suspect. He was re-elected, by the way. He was a better alternative than his opponent in the minds of his constituents.

But it’s not limited to DC. Montana residents are likely aware of a lovely display of â??statesmanshipâ? in the Montana House this week (details at I guess Lange never learned about the “Dont say anything that you dont want your grandmother to read in the paper” rule.

Meanwhile, there are honest, decent Senators, Representatives, bureaucrats etc. Theoretically, at least.

Why am I talking about this, and how does this affect the entrepreneur’s thinking, much less their marketing?

Because you should be better. You HAVE to be better.

With the air of cynicism we have, the general level of mistrust in politicians, bureaucrats and corporate business execs in the news for the wrong reasons, and the reputations of the used car and timeshare salespeople â?? itâ??s easy to get lumped into the shyster mold. In some cases, the reputation has been earned by, as usual, a few bad apples.

I know of at least one timeshare place that doesn’t do business even remotely close to the way we’ve ALL seen it done. You know the places I’m talking about. They’re the ones with people whose hard sell makes anyone else’s hard sell seem like Shrinking Violet.

In Missouri (and probably elsewhere), legislation had to be passed to limit â??Going out of businessâ? sales only to those businesses who were really truly going out of business. I There was one business I remember in particular that â??went out of businessâ? 3 or 4 times a year until this law was passed.

Look, I know that most business owners and entrepreneurs are straight up folks. That message needs to get made to your prospects and your clients. Got hard proof? Testimonials? Use em.

Remember, the smart marketer analyzes the likely sales objections up front and turns them into selling points. Strengths, not weaknesses. Being the town liar and cheat isn’t one of those you can turn around.

When I do business with you, I want to be able to let you hold my wallet while I jump in the pool. If I can’t, if your prospects and clients cant, or don’t feel they could…you’ve got trouble.

For a little empirical â??evidenceâ? of societyâ??s mindset, consider this Jacob Brackman comment:

â??A generation is coming of age in America that doesnâ??t take the news straight, that doesnâ??t take the utterances of public figures straight, that doesnâ??t take social games straightâ?¦it sees giant con games everywhere.â?

Brackman said that â?¦.. in 1971. 35 YEARS AGO.

Think it’s any better today? 35 years ago was before Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and so on.

But that was them. We’re talking about you and your credibility with the prospect. Just like marketing, it’s work, even if you’re an angel. Testimonials don’t just crawl up in your lap and say Howdy.

On the other hand, it should be easy standing out from the crowd. So make a point of doing so, for the right reasons.

Can I trust you to hold my wallet?

Competition Direct Mail Entrepreneurs Politics

Every day, someone is trying to put you out of business.

Some days it’s a competitor, or a supplier. Other days, it’s the government bureaucracy by virtue of that ever-increasing pile of paperwork.

And some days, it’s the people you least expect – your legislators.

I spoke a while back about this issue as it related to a misguided “Do not mail” bill that came up in the Montana House.

As annoying as it may seem , you simply MUST keep up with what these people are doing with their “spare time”. At the Federal level, the small business person is in a tough position because your voice is but one in the maelstrom of lobbybucks coming at Senators and US Representatives. But you have to contact them anyhow. If you don’t, you get the government you deserve.

This is one of the best reasons to support the trade organization that lobbies for your industry (assuming you agree with what they do) and similar organizations. No, they aren’t perfect, but they are better than nothing. EVERY business niche has a trade organization of some kind. Sure, some are better than others. Sometimes a local or state trade or business organization is your most effective voice. It all depends on what you do and how interesting your industry is to legislators.

Regardless of how annoying they are, you HAVE to keep contacting them. FYI: Being a nutball is the wrong way. Be concise, avoid jargon and be reasonably polite until they no longer deserve it and then do it anyhow – otherwise you’re wasting your breath.

At the state level, things are different. In many states, these people have real jobs or real businesses that they are concerned about when they aren’t in session. My State rep ( a freshman rep this session ) is a school guidance counselor. Here in Montana, the sessions are every other year and only last a few months. Because the state has a small population, those of us who actively participate in the process (by contacting them when they need it), can get something done.

Still, like any other place, BS partisan politics is present. The 300+ water-related bills in this year’s Montana legislative  session are a fine example.

But I digress:)

The point of all this that the Do Not Mail thing is just an example of what can happen to your business. Don’t assume that direect mail is never going away, any more than you should assume that having an email address and no other contact info is “ok” for your business. EMails change, legislators flip flop.  Get that phone # and mailing address. Use them APPROPRIATELY. Remember – all these Do Not <whatever> bills exist because there are unscrupulous (or just stupid) businesses out there.

Those of you who are starting up and fighting for a toehold are the ones most threatened by these kinds of bills. Why? Because you don’t have all the relationships you need yet.

For more details on the Do Not Mail legislation and the efforts to wake up the legislators who are in favor of it, see the DMA web site ( ), where you can get and stay up to date on these issues.

Another brief read about the Do Not Mail issue is at 

Entrepreneurs Uncategorized

Hunger, and advice about giving advice

One of the things I spend a lot of time doing is giving advice to business owners and entrepreneurs of various flavors.

A few observations about that:

Smart people listen and take action. Not necessarily doing exactly what I suggest, but SOME sort of action on the problem that they asked about. They dont get themselves bound up in thoughts like “well, you said that worked for the carpet cleaning company, but I write software, so it wont work for me”. There are any number of reasons you can find not to try something. How about this: What if it gets you 1 life-long customer per week? Per month? What’s that worth over time? Presumably that’s a number you know already.

Free advice is almost always worth what you pay for it. Not necessarily because it’s bad advice, but because human nature seems to indicate that if it’s free, we don’t value it as much as “real” advice that we paid for. If we don’t value it, we tend to not heed it.

It’s one of the reasons why I price my work the way I do, and it’s also one of the reasons I am very careful about giving out free advice. It’s not that I don’t want to help people, but the unseen consequences are out there. If I give someone advice and they don’t use it, that hurts no one but them. On the other hand, if they tell someone else “well, Mark suggested I do this, but I didn’t do it” or “…but it didn’t work” (because they didn’t do it), then that reflects on me.

It’s easy to slough off free advice. When you have a skin in the game, suddenly there’s some mysterious reason why you want a positive ROI:) It’s one of the reasons you should think hard about what and how you charge for what you do. On that note: No one asks for the cheapest brain surgeon. No one asks who the cheapest cancer doctor (oncologist) is. They want the best. They want someone who has swooped in and made “miracles” happen. How do you make miracles?

Speaking of miracles..I think back to a couple of chiropractors that I know. I’ve never been to one professionally, but a good many of them talk about fixing back pain. I’ve had a few periods in my life where I had some back pain (actually back muscle spasms). Quite frankly, I’d almost rather spend the night in Mike Tyson’s jail cell than deal with that stuff again. NOTE: I said “ALMOST”, Mike.

I’m guessing that very few, if any, chiropractors have ever experienced back pain, because if they did, their marketing would be far more emotional and personal. And a heck of a lot more effective. Again…what miracles do you create?

Excuses abound.  “A close relative died” is an excuse (well, really more of a reason). “My brakes squeak”, “I have a stuffy nose today” or “I didn’t have time” are not. Choices.

Be prolific. One of Dan’s common comments is “A buyer is a buyer is a buyer”. What he means is that there is a small portion of your clientèle that will invest in everything you offer simply because they believe in you and the impact you have on their business or personal life (depending on what you do). That portion of your clientèle actually EXPECTS more products and services from you.  That doesn’t mean “Make up new crap to sell people”. It means you must be constantly innovating. That “slight edge” thing I talk about isn’t just claptrap to get you to read the next post. It’s something you should expect of yourself because your buyer-buyer-buyers expect “what’s next”. Doesn’t matter whether you sell advice or lawn mowers.

Be selective about the destination of your advice. One of the comments I make to people is that “I don’t save souls.” What I mean by that is that I help those who want to be helped. There is little reward for me in helping someone who is just going to sit there in the puddle and complain about sitting in the puddle, so to speak. Those who ask, those who listen, those who take action – those are the ones I enjoy helping. I really do mean enjoy. It’s very rewarding (and I don’t mean solely from a financial point of view) to help a business owner who WANTS help.

On the other hand, I really avoid spending time and effort offering advice to business owners who never take any action, heed any advice, etc. The hungry business owner who wants to see improvement might be making $100 a month or $100,000 a month, but they’re still hungry and seeking ways to make themselves and their business better every day.

Are you hungry?

Competition Entrepreneurs Marketing

Tainted dog food, Oprah and the deafening silence

Lately, the big dog and cat food “scandal” regarding the tainted food manufactured by Menu Foods has been all over the news. Poisoned or tainted food, made by the biggest processors in the industry, has been recalled from all over North America. is just a sample of the press on this topic.

Meanwhile, there’s an amazing, deafening silence from the alternative pet food manufacturers. You may not even realize that they are out there. They really do exist.

A few of them have a brief (1 short sentence) mention, such as “Our food has not been recalled.”, but that’s it.

What a perfect opportunity to get yourself and your pet food company on Oprah (for example) and forever be in the prime grocery shoppers’ minds as “the ONLY safe dog food”. Guaranteed, if you got in touch with their booking agent and offered a 10 lb bag to everyone in the studio audience, and brought a few cute little critters with you, you’d be on in nothing flat. That appearance would likely result in a ton of public relations that would get you on other shows.

If you were a little daring, you might even toss a handful in your mouth and say “Our food is so safe and nutritious, I’ll eat it myself. How’s that for proof?” Next, throw down the dog biscuit and challenge other dog food company CEOs to eat their pet food with your, right there on national tv. No way will anyone else do it.

FYI: 68 million people see Oprah’s show every week, on average. 68 MILLION. That’s almost 1/4th of the US population, folks. Primarily women. Guess who buys the pet food?

But nevermind that, just sit there with Rover at your feet and wait for your distributors to place another order. It’s their job to sell, not yours, right?

Really, really dumb to miss an opportunity this big. This is one of those amazing opportunities in life, like Gates selling IBM something he didnt even have, perhaps with a few less zeroes at the end. Opportunities like this don’t stumble by very often.

Entrepreneurs Marketing

80, 15 and 5 – and how it relates to NxLevel

Next week, I’m the guest instructor for a NxLevel entrepreneur class in Kalispell. I’m teaching the practical part of marketing, following Patti Gregerson from the Kalispell Chamber, who taught the conceptual stuff this week. She’s a sharp cookie that anyone would be lucky to have on their team.

On a related matter, Dan talks about 80%, 15% and 5% a lot, when it relates to human behavior. Like any smart marketer, he studies psychology and human behavior and uses what he learns in his marketing. In his experience, he says that in any group, there’s an 80% ( the average non-high achievers ) and a 20% (the success stories). Of that 20%, he maintains that in every population of people he’s ever met, they are split into a 15% group and a 5% group.

This even includes the billionaires he’s met, according to Dan. In other words, in a room with 100 billionaires, 5 of them are super high achievers who are doing far better than the other 15 who are smoking the 80 who are “just” billionaires. He maintains that the same goes for those in the food stamp line, golfers, you name it.

I don’t know that there’s scientific backup for this, but observations sure seem to bear it out.

Back to how this relates to NxLevel. I had the coordinator help me perform a little experiment. I had him mail out some introductory material about me, including testimonials and my “17 questions” document that they can put to practical use. The cover page in the letter asks them to fax or email a question or marketing piece (ad, etc) for evaluation that we’ll go over in my session. I asked them to be specific.

Of the 20 or so people in the class, how many do you think will respond? Will it just be the 5%?

I figure I’ll get 3 responses at the most, and 1 of them will be a great question. I hope I’m wrong and find a big pile of faxes waiting for me, but all prior experience says the numbers will be in that neighborhood.

I had another reason for sending out the intro material, testimonials and 17 questions document, and it WASN’T because I’m trying to get their business. One of these owners could be considered a competitor. I’m sure it’ll make him wonder why I did this. Doesn’t matter. The real reason is that I’m setting them up in a little marketing experiment as part of the teaching exercise. Should be interesting as the light comes on.

Entrepreneurs Politics

Put Donald Trump in charge of Walter Reed

Blog readers: This place is still about business, the slight edge and all the stuff you expect from me. Still, I thought you might find this interesting or instructive (or amusing, who knows), since my comments to the big guy are in the same context as I would normally write here on any other day. I faxed this to the White House today, and thought Id share it with you guys in hopes that you will find it useful.

Dear President Bush,

I write a business blog called “Business is Personal” at The blog is about small business, entrepreneurship, customer service, marketing and similar topics of interest to the entrepreneur. I do what those inside the Beltway spend some of their time trying to do – I help small businesses become more successful.

I thought I would comment on the Walter Reed situation – in an entrepreneurial context. Anyone who has paid attention knows that there have been problems of one kind or another at Walter Reed since the 1960’s, if not longer. Since Bill Gates was in front of the Senate today to talk about labor, visas and hi-tech, I thought I would carry my little piece of the load and apply a little entrepreneurial logic to this round of problems at Walter Reed.