Book Reviews


This wasnt your normal business book, in that there werent a bunch of steps or actions to take, or methods to try, etc like one might normally find.

That aside, this was a supremely interesting book that had me reading cover to cover in 1 sitting. You wont take concrete actions away from this, but it will be a treat to the abstract side, to the part of you that notices things that register days or hours later … if at all. Steven Levitt would be quite an interesting guy to have lunch with.

2 dogears. Neither one actionable. This isnt your normal dogear score. Recommended, despite the low dogear count.


Book Reviews

Think and Grow Rich

The classic 1937 Napoleon Hill book that still motivates entrepreneurs.
For those who dont know the story, Andrew Carnegie offered to give Hill access to his billionaire friends so that he could document the traits of extraordinarily successful people. Hill had to do so on his own time and money, he received nothing from Carnegie except access to “unreachable” people. After 20 years of interviewing Carnegie’s friends and associates, Hill came up with 17 traits that these people had in common. These 17 traits bore the book, “Think and Grow Rich”.
Even if nothing else came out of this book but the mastermind process, it would still be one of the classic books for business people.
If you are a business owner and you arent in a mastermind, find one.

You can find masterminds that are run by professionally trained advisors at, among other places. The combination of DK mastermind material and Hill’s mastermind discovery is quite powerful. You can even put one together yourself, but Id suggest that your first would be best for you if coordinated by someone experienced in the process.

Compass needed

Print THIS!

I bought another business in April 2006 (Im beginning to think I *collect* them). Because the business came with plenty of supplies and I had plenty of other things to juggle, it took a few weeks to get to calling all the vendors and making sure that I didn’t have any suppliers that are going to be a pita to deal with.

I emailed one of them who sent me a package. No response after a month.

I called the printer and spoke with a sales guy, owner, janitor or manager, he didn’t bother to say who he was. I asked for info on pricing and turnaround time. He said he’d get it to me. 3 weeks goes by. Nothing. Clearly, he doesn’t want or need my business. So…silly me, I call back.

He clearly remembers my request. Then he humhaws around (that’s a high-level business term meaning “stalling and mumbling”) and finally tells me that if I really want that info, he’ll have to send me credit app info and all that, since he has to worry about getting paid now that a non-relative owns the business. He clearly says in his tone of voice that he doesn’t want to do that. I tell him, that’s fine, I typically pay with Amex anyhow. He says “We don’t take credit cards”, then proceeds to assume that I’m done with them.

But I keep pressing. I ask him for Pantone colors on the stuff they print for us, since I’ll clearly need to go elsewhere for printing. He says “oh, the previous owner just picked them out each time, I don’t have that info.” Riiiight.
So by now, I’ve already well past deciding that this company couldn’t BEG me for another dime of business, but I press on, by now only interested in seeing what else this guy will do. He repeats himself a bit and says he’ll send me the info tomorrow, if I still want it. I say I do and we hang up.

No “Thanks for calling from out of state, I hope we can earn your business.” Just a silent, but very clear “I can’t be troubled to deal with you and your money” coming between the lines.

Book Reviews

To be, or not to be intimidated? That is the question

Robert Ringer’s classic “To be or not to be intimidated?” was originally titled “Winning through Intimidation”, a title that ran off a number of readers. The reality is, his book is about NOT being intimidated, using visualization and making things happen. He relates a number of stories that describe lessons he learned during the process of becoming a commercial real estate broker and investor. A lot of the people he dealt with during those deals are intimidating people. He describes how he conquered the intimidation and how you can use what he learned to make your business and personal life more successful by understanding the intimidator and how to handle those situations.
7 dogears, mostly things I want to write about later:)



Be different or die

Imagine that you go to the weekly Chamber of Commerce lunch. Everyone eats the chicken except for the real estate agents.

For some reason, every real estate agent eats fish. Sadly, they all get food poisoning and die the next day.

The next week, how many real estate deals fail to close?


This is NOT limited to real estate agents.

Now, store that away for a moment and think about how you need to differentiate yourself.

If you are a real estate agent, consider your relationship with everyone who has ever bought a house from you, whose house you’ve sold, whose business you’ve helped them buy or sell. Every one of them is being chased by another agent.

If 100 carpet cleaners closed next week in Chicago, maybe people would have to wait a day or so, but generally speaking I’ll bet you that no one outside of friends and family of those businesses would even notice. Someone else would get the business without much of a second thought by the customers with dirty carpets.

This is NOT limited to carpet cleaners.

One of the things we help small businesses do is something that Dan Kennedy calls “Putting a cage around your customers”. IE: locking out the competition by making them irrelevant. You have to do things to make this happen, but look at the payoff.

Are you willing to be different?

And maybe, just maybe, reconsider eating the fish:)

Compass needed Strategy

Why thank them?

It’s ok to say it. Really. It’s not that hard at all.

Can you remember the last time you received a thank you note from someone that you do business with?

I can.

I regularly get a mass-printed corporate looking thank you postcard with the business person’s picture on it. It’s laser printed, including the guy’s signature. I figure that he knows I got his card, but he was involved in paying the bill to have the card mailed and that’s about it.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place for those kinds of cards – marketing and random, fun customer touches. However, THANK YOUs are NOT the time and place for that kind of card.

I understand he may think he has better things to do than write cards, but let’s talk about it, then you can decide.

Feeling appreciated
Do I think this guy appreciates my business? I think he probably does, but that’s because I know him from elsewhere. He’s in a price-shopped industry that isn’t known for “I stand out in a crowd”. He could stand out easily with some effort, but in his industry, the “industry norm” (ie: what the sheep do and say) is that you will eat beans and rice for 5 years as you grow your customer base, and after 5 years, you are pretty well set for life.

Does the card show his appreciation? Not even close. Maybe the laser printed signature gave it away.

People tend to be annoyed with the guys that sell what he sells. We assume they are impersonal, distant and generally don’t give a crap….just because of what they do. It’s easy to clear that assumption away with a hand-written note.

Does this card tell me “That’s not true about me, I really care!!”


Does this card tell me “It’s my job to take care of your business and keep your out of harm’s way”


Do I think this guy is a friend because I get laser printed cards from him?


Friends don’t send friends thank you cards with laser printed signatures.
Can you remember the last pre-printed thank you note you got from a friend? I’m guessing you don’t.

You get hand written cards from friends. Sometimes cards picked out just for you. Sometimes, cards from a set they bought or had printed. Sometimes, cards they made by hand. Think about the “map” that the leading man in the movie Elizabethtown received to lead him from his father’s little town back to the big city. Do you think her card showed that she cared? No question about it. Who wouldn’t want to get a map like that?

Can you remember the last hand written thank you note you got from an insurance agent, the lady at the dry cleaners, your financial planner or the nice guy at the oil change place?

Can you remember the last time you sent a thank you card or note to a customer – and that card or note wasn’t pre-printed? When you’re at home watching The Apprentice (and I hope you are, we’ll talk about that sometime), why can’t you address and write a brief note on a few cards?

Isn’t my business worth 10 or 15 words, 39 cents and a card? Don’t you want me thinking about your business when I open my mail, rather than thinking about the businesses who I *do* get mail from?

Now back to my original question. Can you remember the last time you received a thank you note from someone that you do business with?

Be smart.

Book Reviews


For those of you who didnt take any psychology classes in college or somewhere else, this is the book you need to have read before buying a car:)

Seriously, this book is a gold mine for understanding the sales process, commonly-used (but often not understood) ways to influence or motivate decisions, etc.

A few dogears here and there, but this one gets a different grade because its a different sort of read. Recommendation: Read it at least once a year just to remind yourself. If you happen to be in sales or marketing, well, all the better. You’ll definitely get your time and money’s worth. This is one of those books you might be tempted to keep to yourself.

Book Reviews


I do a lot of reading, both of books and business/marketing newsletters. I dont get rid of the books I read, unless they stink.

One of the things I noticed a while back is that the books I refer back to the most years after Ive read them are the ones that have the most pages “dogeared”. For those who are not as cruel to books as I am, “dogears” means folding over the corner of the page. Often, my reading places are in spots or at times where I cant take notes, so I dogear the pages that I want to refer back to.

The more dogears there are, the better the book, generally speaking.

Compass needed

How to keep a bookstore from being sticky

Here I am, sitting in the Hastings book store coffee shop in Helena, waiting for my son’s trombone performance with the All Montana Jazz Band.

The coffee shop has no wireless.

The clueless retailer looks at wireless as an expense. The smart ones look at it as one more reason for their customers to enter their store. People are habitual creatures. They get used to going to store A, regardless of the reason, and before long, store A is all they go to until store A finds a way to tick them off. Then the process starts all over again.

Back to Hastings…it’s mid-afternoon on a weekday before school lets out. Prime stay-at-home mom time, yet they cant even manage to keep someone at the counter. Management has them running all over the store, doing other tasks. Customers come into the coffee area, stand around for a bit, start feeling stupid, then get annoyed, then they finally make them ramble around the store until the find someone who looks like a “coffee dude”. OR THEY LEAVE.

Roughly 1000 square feet of store space, dedicated to this coffee bar and they cant even have the foresight to staff it and make it “sticky” by offering wireless (just one example of what they could do).



Pulling your hair out over no-shows?

One day last week, I decided to work at home since I had to head over to Rotary at noon. No one was home but myself and Blondie (the Golden Retriever/Husky mix), so getting work done was not a problem.

A little bit ago, a lady from the place where my wife gets her hair cut called to see if she was here. I told her she had left to go get her hair cut, then laughed and commented that my wife had indeed remembered the appointment this time.

You see, the last few times she had a hair appointment there, something happened and she forgot to show up at the right time. Rather than continue to tolerate that behavior, the hair place invested 2 minutes of their time to call an hour before the appointment to remind her.

Should they have to do that? Not really.

Is it smart business? Absolutely.

Why? Its your job as the business owners to groom your customers, train them and adjust their behavior as necessary.
How? Make them an offer that makes them want to be on time, or set things up so that missing that appointment is something they simply cant tolerate, or wouldnt dream of.
Any business that is paid for work done in appointment slots (like a hair salon or spa) has to do whatever they can to decrease the number of no-shows, or late arrivals because they cant get that time back. Sure, they can rebook that person, but the original slot still sat there unoccupied and that time was not purchased. Photography studios (a niche I spent quite a few years working in) struggled with this for years until it was suggested that they could get their customers to pre-pay for the sitting fee in order to hold an appointment. This sitting fee is not refundable if you miss your appointment, but it sometimes is credited against portrait print purchases.

Once people started paying for sitting fees (some call them reservation fees), they suddenly started showing up on time because they didnt want to lose the money they paid in advance. Now all of a sudden you have a more predictable income, because you know how much on average each family will spend on prints and other products once they’ve actually shown up and had their portrait taken – and you’ve gotten your customers to behave a lot better – because they actually show up for their appointment.
A little bonus thought
The sitting fee is an amount charged for the activity of coming in and having your portrait photographed. It DOES NOT pay for the printed pictures, just for the time (if justified poorly), equipment (ditto) and experience/expertise (BEST) to have the photographer there to make you look great.

Notice how I worded that. The photographer isnt there to take your picture, any more than the hair stylist is there to cut your hair. They are using their training, specialized equipment and experience to make you look great, not just catch you however you look that day and make the best of, uh, what you brought.
Feels different than a “hair cut” and a “picture”, doesnt it?

Train your customers to be better customers. Both of you will be better for it.