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.