Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Land of Bland

Being Bland IS: Safe.

Being Bland IS: Politically correct.

Being Bland MEANS: You won't get laughed at, second-guessed or criticized.

Being Bland TURNS: You into the "Charlie Brown Teacher" reading 838 bullet points off 79 PowerPoint slides while 127 sets of eyeballs glaze over. "Stab me in the eye with a dinner fork".

Being Bland CREATES: "Vanilla Nice" radio ads (promising fast, friendly & knowledgeable staff!), brochures, web copy, trade show booths and visuals that morph into the same "white noise" that all of your competitors are making.

Being Bland MEANS: You will be ignored.

Being Bland IS DEFINITELY: Bad for your business.

Being Bland KILLS: Any hope of your brand emerging as a recession-proof, ever growing and evolving community of loyal customers who generate long-term growth and profitability.

Being Bland IS: Going through the motions. Never once losing your mind in "Detroit Rock City".

Being Bland IS: A public admission that you lack the vision or imagination to come up with a fist-pumping brand message that rocks somebody's nightime world - including your own.

According to Dictionary.com, "bland" is defined a number of ways including; mild; tasteless; lacking in special interest, liveliness, individuality; insipid; dull; unemotional, indifferent, or casual.But if you want to get your business (and your brand) noticed by customers, future employees and inspire the people already in your show, consider an approach to:

BE OUTRAGEOUS: Because it's the only place in your category that isn't already overcrowded.

BE OUTRAGEOUS: Because it beats the hell out of being boring.

BE OUTRAGEOUS: Because being boring is risky as a branding strategy.

Unless, of course you want to blend in with the other "sphincterizing suits" and develop a non-offensive, guaranteed-never-to-shock brand, that settles for a peaceful, ordinary and most uneventful existence in the "land of bland". Consequences include getting blindsided someday by a competitor with the vision and gonads to be OUTRAGEOUS!

Being Bland IS: A choice.

Yours to make.

The following video IS: Another choice for you to make, depending on your sensitivity level.

Watch it. Praise it. Shitcan it. Maybe even forward it. But my guess is you won't find it Bland.

While we're on the subject of A.B.B. (Anything But Bland), Wendi Aarons of Austin, TX must have made some Procter & Gamble honchos squeamish with her open letter to the P&G Brand Manager. Her posting has reverberated through the blosphere thanks to her surgical-like wordsmithing that gave voice to what many women feel, but would never say.


Honestly, who does a Brand from Bland really work for?

Why do we see so much of it in the business world?

And why is it tolerated?

"James Bond has a license to kill, rock stars have a license to be outrageous. Rock is about grabbing people's attention" GENE SIMMONS

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Space Between

Can anyone fully comprehend the concept of entrepreneurship without understanding the theories of Joseph Schumpeter?

The once personally bankrupt Austrian Minister of Finance who later escaped the Nazis to teach at Harvard in the 1930's and 40's argued that innovation and technological change of any nation comes from wild spirits, or as he phrased it "Unternehmergeist", German for entrepreneur-spirit. Despite contrary opinions from the intellectual elite, Joe believed these renegades are the ones who make things work in any economy, unleashing what Schumpeter described as "creative destruction". You can think of "creative destruction" as the way in which old methods of doing things ( 8-tracks and cassettes) are destroyed and replaced by new ways (compact discs) and destroyed and replaced again (MP3, iTunes).

Here is what Schumpeter determined as far back as 1942 when "Creative Destruction" was first published:

"So is the history of the productive apparatus of the iron and steel industry from the charcoal furnace to our own type of furnace, or the history of the apparatus of power production from the overshot water wheel to the modern power plant, or the history of transportation from the mailcoach to the airplane. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in."

Schumpeter's theories can be applied to every business model; from corner ice cream stands to multi-nationals perched on top of Fortune 500 lists. The actual words that catapult these creative, yet destructive visions of grandeur are sparked by billions of synaptic connections, firing inside a human brain; and a single heart that yearns for something more. Somewhere in a six to nine inch space between a persons ears, entrepreneurial worlds are first imagined, and then spoken into existence by men and women who refuse to accept status quo; with the courage to do what's not expected; unwilling to settle for what everyone else thinks is okay. Consequently, they are accustomed to being laughed at, ridiculed and scorned by others who can't see what they can. But these rebels with a business cause know what they know, even if it isn't always clearly grasped by those around them.

They are the kind of people who will "get" what is shared in this video.

True entrepreneurs have active imaginations, triggered initially by noticing something ordinary, asking why it works that way, then figuring out how to blow it up so they can do it or build it better (in a way that customers will be delighted to pay money for that product or service).

Just for kicks and giggles, why not look around this week at the ordinary things you do or buy. Take a second and a third, closer look. Study the underlying pattern.

Then, start asking the most dangerous question of all.

Why do they do it that way?

Who knows? You might begin to experience a sudden urge to wreak havoc and create wealth simultaneously, overcome with a spirit of "Unternehmergeist".

And make the world a better place.

"The space between, the tears we cry, is the laughter keeps us coming back for more"

Friday, September 26, 2008

20,000 Agents Under the Sea?

You are standing at Canada Place on the Vancouver waterfront, enjoying a Starbucks imitation Blenz coffee and reflecting on news that will send shock waves through an entire industry.

PropertyGuys.com dropped an information bomb this week that has news agencies scrambling to report on its implications. According to Director of Partnerships, Walter Melanson, as many as 20,000 real estate agents in Canada will be out of work within the next 24 to 36 months. The way Melanson sees it, free-flying days of 'stick a sign in the ground and it's sold' are long gone, replaced by a new reality of a more balanced market that sees agents squeezed out from their arguably bloated ranks. And Melanson should know as PropertyGuys.com, Canada's leaders in the emerging Private Sale industry gain more traction each month, catering to public perceptions about the value agents represent in the real estate supply chain. For the entire release, just go to Canada News Wire by clicking here:

I don't know if its coincidence or not, but just for fun I went to You Tube this morning - punched in "Realtors" and this is what came up:

With apologies to late 49'ers coach, Bill Walsh, PropertyGuys.com (The "Rock Stars of Franchising") are employing their own version of a West Coast offense this week in Vancouver. Melanson, along with Ken LeBlanc and the author of "The Wealthy HomeSeller", Dale Betts are appearing at the Canadian Franchise Association Show, Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 27/28) at the Sheraton Wall Centre in downtown Vancouver to meet with prospective business partners, interested in knowing more about the seismic shift taking place in the multi-billion dollar Canadian real estate industry.

But the real question on my mind this morning is whether Walter Melanson is the real estate industry's equivalent to Jules Verne who chronicled the adventures of outlaw submarine captains as far back as 1870 - long before subs became commonplace. In fact, Verne's novels contained startlingly accurate anticipations of modern times with passages predicting air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, space travel, helicopters, jukeboxes and more.

Does Walter Melanson, a guy who grew up on Canada's east coast, know something most of us don't, when it comes to the future of real estate in this country? And how it will be bought and sold five to ten years from now?

What do you think?

"The natives over there are cannibals. They eat liars with the same enthusiasm as they eat honest men" CAPTAIN NEMO

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Business Rockers: ON TOUR

What would you talk about in a one-on-one conversation with the "Rock Stars of Franchising"?

People in the Vancouver BC area will have that opportunity this weekend at the Canadian Franchise Show (Saturday & Sunday, September 27-28) and connect in-person with the winners of the prestigious 2008 CFA Award of Excellence.

PropertyGuys.com partners Ken LeBlanc, Walter Melanson, and Dale Betts are looking forward to sharing their insights on the franchising industry when they appear at the Sheraton Wall Centre. LeBlanc, Melanson, Betts and the rest of the PropertyGuys.com team have made quite splash in the traditional real estate industry with an exciting re-branding initiative that has turned heads, upset the agents applecarts and grabbed the attention of a growing legion of fans.

Here is a peek behind the curtain of thinking that saw PropertyGuys.com attract nationwide attention with its bold, award-winning, brand strategy.

Anyone attending the Vancouver franchise show this weekend can meet Ken, Dale & Walter; pick their collective business brains at the PropertyGuys.com booth, located at the Sheraton Wall Centre. PGTV will also be on location shooting additional video segments (who knows, you might wind up on the show!) and visitors can also learn more about how they can attend a private seminar called "A Taste of PGU" - the inside story of another dynamic Atlantic Canadian success story called PropertyGuys.com University. (http://www.mypgu.com/)

PropertyGuys.com makes a habit of doing things in a maverick, unconventional fashion. As "Ground Breaking Rockers" (September 8, 2008 post), they are unlike any ordinary real estate company. In fact, they're not agents or brokers. They simply use the power of the internet combined with experts on the ground to provide a safe and practical way for buyers and sellers to connect while avoiding the high cost of commission. As the slogan says, "Sell Your House. Pay Yourself".

Their innovative approach to branding - aligned with Digitial Economy realities - is paying off in spades. In so many ways, they are a company to watch and learn from as they continue to grow a national franchise system that now features over 110 locations.

And to think it all started about a decade ago with two guys, still in unversity, with nothing more than a big idea and less than 100 bucks.

Having the "Big Idea" is one thing. In fact thousands of people in business have "Big Ideas" everyday. It's the execution of that idea with nothing more than the Metallica-like "Fuel" of passion coupled with a little GN'R-type "Patience" and the sweat equity of an Angus Young that makes these guys worth talking to.

What would you be asking them?

"As a rock star, I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both" BONO

p.s....For more information on the "Franchise Show" itself click here: CFA Franchise Show

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who's Teaching Who?

What wisdom would you share, if you were invited to speak to a class of so-called, "at-risk" teenagers?
I'm talking about kids who have fallen through the wide cracks that exist in any school system. Young adults, who are struggling to:

a) Keep up with their with grades;
b) Fit in and play nice with others;
c) Find out who they really are;
d) Stay away from temptation and trouble;
e) All of the above.

I'm not sure if I'm the best person to speak on any subject involving "at-risk" youth, since I wonder if the fundamental starting point is flawed. "At-Risk" according to who? What if they are really in a state of "At-Opportunity" ? I know for a fact, that in pursuing any endeavour of consequence, the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. So maybe being labelled as being "at-risk" isn't such a bad thing after all.

Guess it all depends on how you look at it.

But, let's get back to the invitation to speak.

My initial response if that I am a lousy choice for this gig. Deep down, I know I have not travelled any of the same roads as the teens I would be addressing. I was the kind of kid who did OK in school, graduated on time, made friends easily, got into minimal, harmless trouble, had two parents who stayed together and after grabbing the diploma took off to Toronto to launch a career in broadcasting.

But the decades-plus friend who is inviting me thinks I have something of value to share.

"OK, Debbie, I'll do it".

I show up for the class that day and instantly the differences I anticipated were as clear as a New York night and a Maritime morning. They are younger; I am part of what's politely being called an "older demographic". They're clad in jeans and t-shirts; I'm decked out in business casual. Most of them exude cool without little or no effort. I'm still struggling in that department as I have yet to learn how to text message another human being.

"This is going to be hard ... harder than I thought ... How do I make a connection with these kids ... How do I inspire them in some authentic way that might make a difference in how they see the world and themselves in it? OK, Einstein, anytime now, what genius idea are you going to come up with?"

That was it.

After the initial introductions and going around the room to know the names of 24 faces, I thought any wisdom to be discovered on this day would come from them. In other words, they were no different than many of the larger, corporate groups I am invited to speak to. They didn't need yet another Moses coming down from the mountain top with a sermon on success.

The answers were already inside. They just needed to be pulled out somehow.

Here is the question I asked:

"What would be the common traits, characteristics or accomplishments shared by Albert Einstein and Eminem?

Come again?

"You heard me, what is the same or similar about Einstein and Eminem? And I'm expected a different answer from each of you. No one can pass on this question and I will tell you up front, it's much easier to go first, since the answers will be tougher to come up with as we work our way towards the end of the room"

My question is met with stony silence.

Tension slowly fills the room. Two-dozen borderline high school dropouts are gradually realizing this will not be an easy task to accomplish from start to finish with 24 original answers.

One kid begins. Then another.

After a few hiccups along the way, the task has been completed. A flip chart bears testament to 24 original answers to the question.

1. Both start with the letter "E".
2. Both are men.
3. Both are smart.
4. Both changed lives.
5. Both did drugs.
6. Both had hard childhoods.
7. Both were wrong at times.
8. Both were doubted.
9. Both were persecuted.
10. Both are top in their profession.
11. Both are famous.
11. Both are weird.
12. Both are committed.
13. Both inspired people.
14. Both worked their way to the top.
15. Both had two "E's" in each name.
16. Both are smart.
17. Both are legends.
18. Both were ahead of their time.
19. Both were subjects of discussion.
20. Both are white.
22. Both changed lives.
23. Both were idealists.
24. Neither completed high school.

I think I learned something more important than my audience that day. Collectively, they appeared more than satisfied with what they had accomplished while I realized the roles had suddenly reversed in terms of who was teaching whom. As the final answer went up on the chart, I couldn't help but think that, "Excellence has nothing to do with how or where you start. It's where you end up".

When it comes to real wisdom, I just try and learn from the best.

What questions are you asking these days that lead you to wisdom?
Where are you planning to end up?

NOTE: Marshall Bruce Mathers III also known as "Slim Shady" and his primary nom de plume, "Eminem", is an Academy Award winning and Grammy Award winning rapper and actor who has sold over seventy million albums worldwide. He has collaborated with various artists such as Dr. Dre, 50-Cent, Kid Rock, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Jadakiss and others.

Six months after he was born, Marshall's father disappeared. As a kid, Marshall moved a lot, repeated the ninth grade three times and dropped out of high school at 17. He has attempted suicide, been sued for $10 million dollars by his birth mother, and twice-divorced from the mother of his daughter Hailie Jade. He has been praised for having "verbal energy", high quality of lyricism and earned notoriety for controversial lyrical themes, alleged to glorify violence, misogyny and homophobia. His music kicks serious ass.

Meanwhile, Albert Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the Photoelectric Effect. His vast contributions to our planet include his Theory of Relativity and his discovery that energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable. (E=MC2).In 1999, Albert was named "Person of the Century" by TIME Magazine.

In his early teens, Einstein clashed with authorities and resented the regimen of school. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning. As a 16-year old he dropped out, convincing the school to let him go by using a doctor's note. Rather than complete high school, Albert applied directly to Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Without a diploma, he was required to take an entrance examination, which he did not pass, although he got exceptional marks in mathematics and physics.

Eventually, Albert would rock our world.

As would Marshall.

"I, at any rate, am convinced that God does not throw dice." ALBERT EINSTEIN

"The truth is you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed" EMINEM


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Initiating Thoughts

From an award-winning CEO's perspective, few qualities are of more value than personal initiative.

But, is it on the old reboundaroo?

Or is personal initiative dying an excruciatingly, slow, painful death?

You be Judge Judy and Jury.

The CEO I'm referring to was sharing some of his beliefs on personal initiative over the course of a recent, three-hour road trip. Two people conversing on a highway drive can cover hundreds of philosophical miles, and this trip fell into that category, comparing milestones, attitudes and behavioural patterns over 20 years or more. This particular CEO happens to be a world-class authority on the subject of personal initiative - with business numbers to back it up. But despite his best efforts to help certain individuals get more of what they say they want out of life, they resist at every turn. Refusing to believe what he himself has proven factually can be done. As you might expect, our discussion kept coming back to this issue of why so many people seem to struggle - no matter how many resources they may or may not have at their disposal.

Since our journey, I've been reflecting once again on a familiar theme. Ever since having had the good fortune to participate in a global experiment several years ago on the "Knowing-Doing G.A.P.", I've been asking myself this question:

"Why do so many of us NOT do the things we KNOW we should be doing?

I'm not sure if I have the answer entirely figured out for myself. There are still many things, I know I should take care of, handle, initiate and prevent from falling through the cracks, but those things still seem to happen. Some days more than others.

This is not one of those days.

Let's experiment and open up a dialogue on this question:

"Why do so many of us NOT do the things we KNOW we should be doing?

Here is how it works.

For the rest of this week, carefully monitor at least five personal conversations with co-workers, friends, family etc. and see if you can detect a pattern in the dialogue. Listen intently. Try and detect whether the person you are speaking with is communicating one of two human qualities:

1.) Ambition? ... OR ... 2.) Initiative?

You can't say "Well, it's a little bit of both". No half-pregnant answers on this one. It's one or the other. Ambition or Initiative? You can invent your own 1-10 scale, or zero-sum scoring or any methodology you wish but the goal is to see where the scale is tipping in everyday conversations.

I'm interested to see what conclusions you can reach simply by listening intently to a persons choice of words in everyday conversations. Can you determine whether their minute-by-minute, basic human operating systems are based on a spirit of ambition or filled with the essence of initiative?

Remember, one or the other. Which paradigm or belief is sitting in the drivers seat of the people you talk to this week?

Like a curious sponge, I'm anxious to soak up what you discover.

Will you share what you learn with me and the other sponges who are now reading this post?

p.s... You can begin sharing your thoughts on Monday morning, once you have had the rest of the week - plus the weekend to engage in those five conversations. Not the "Hi, how ya doin'?" type of quickie small talk but conversations that reveal an element of depth and insight about a person and what they think about. Best-selling author and bona-fide human success expert Bob Proctor offers some additional thoughts on this subject.

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go" DR. SEUSS


Monday, September 22, 2008

Front Row Vision

Like Bob Uecker "sitting in the front row", I'm at majestic Tuscan Hall about a year-and-a-half ago, watching the Wizard weave his magic with a spellbinding presentation about the "Forty-Year Pendulum".

Roy H. Williams grand slam performance at Wizard Academy in Austin, TX that day illustrated a phenomenon that happens every 40 years where society's attitudes gradually shift over time in a direction that counters that of the previous generation. I can vividly recall Roy's Monday Morning Memo of December 15, 2003 that predicted this shift would happen by 2008. The Wizard of Ads could foresee what was coming our way simply by studying patterns of history and connecting clues left by Elvis and Eminem.


In other words, the Wizard knew back then that a pudgy, well-paid slugger called Overblown Hype was about to go down swinging to a 98 mile-an-hour fastball served up by a skinny left-hander named Gen Y.

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

In their book, "Generations" William Strauss and Neil Howe explain that generations come in four cycles, generally lasting between 80 and100 years. The cycles rotate, starting with an idealist generation, to a reactive one, then a civic-minded generation and finally an adaptive generation, that leads back into an idealist one. Currently, the Forty-Year Pendulum is taking us from an idealistic society where it was OK to dream, to a more civic-minded world where getting things done is more important. A no bullshit, zero hype society that mocks big feeling impostors or weak-kneed, vanilla corporate sheep with nothing to say but advertising "white noise".

"Friendly & Knowledgeable Staff", Locally Owned & Operated", "Huge Selection." "Top Quality." "Everyday Low Prices." "Easy Credit."

Even though these statements may be true in the mind of the person who hands over a check to a media rep, we've been listening to this recycled pap for more than 40 years now. But, don't think cliche-ridden adspeak is restricted to the marketing of products and services. Some of the worst offenders these days are the ads trying to sell "dynamic and rewarding career opportunities" with proclamations of offering "a challenging, fast-paced, results-oriented environment, ideal for positive, self-motivated and energetic multi-tasking team players with pro-active problem-solving abilities, strong communication and computer skills, able to work independently while exceeding customer expectations".

And in those ads, the seeds are planted for the posturing between employer and applicant in interviews and on resumes to begin.

Owners, manager and HR people who care about attracting top talent to their brand will be the ones who figure out how to speak to those people in the language they want to be spoken to. Here is an example from a British consulting firm, specializing in social media.

Having been choked by a steady diet of hype, we hunger today for statements we can actually believe in. We crave hearing words and feeling emotions that seamlessly link to a brand promise that actually matters. And then we are positivelt delighted whenever we see a business actually deliver on that promise.

Understanding this societal shift is good news for forward thinking visionaries who make an effort to apply this thinking to their own brand. If you are that type of person, and ready to spend some batting practice time to do a little research on the implications of the Forty-Year Pendulum, I like your chances of making solid contact with your customers - both internal and external. And if you can be in the Moncton, NB area in early October, you'll want to be in the front row when Roy H. Williams appears at "Taking Flight", the first-ever Atlantic HR Conference.

Just don't let the curve ball of the HR label scare you away. Details at http://www.atlantichrconference.com/

Batter up!

"You can only milk a cow so long, then you're left holding the pail" HANK AARON


Friday, September 19, 2008

Spheric in the Sun

"It’s all about simplicity and reducing redundancy. We have a disdain for repetition and prefer to automate processes. Our clients love us for it".
ADAM MACDONALD, Spheric Technologies

It all started with four guys in a basement.

Sharing pizza, a few pops and some mighty big plans.

About five years ago, Adam, Andrew, Cory and Dan would get together in humble surroundings in Moncton, NB and talk for hours on end about a different future for themselves. Those initial, helter-skelter discussions would extend late into many evenings, marked by several empty bottles and cardboard boxes that provided the necessary fuel for the rocket ship of an IT company about to liftoff. This hi-tech Fab Four pictured an international firm of highly specialized, computer programmers managing the deployment of Web portals for large corporations. Their dream was a lofty one as they envisioned a team that would be like Lear Jet mechanics for back-end, web platforms - understood by few - but necessary for world-class clients to facilitate access by millions. They could see Ruby (on Rails) in the sky with diamonds

Their launch was accomplished in 2005 without any venture capital or government funding.

Today is their day in the sun.

Spheric Technologies has just cracked Profit Magazine's, PROFIT HOT 50 List, for Canada's emerging growth companies. Spheric now belongs to a select group of companies that have proven they're willing to embrace risks; and are committed to finding the right ingredients to propel growth in the 21st century Digital Economy. And they have the numbers to back it up.

Spheric now boasts a total of 28 full time employees, year after year of exponential growth and 2007 sales of over 2.2 million dollars. Over the past 24 months, Spheric Technologies has grown by 152% with 89% of their sales generated through export markets. A stellar client roster includes Procter & Gamble, Bristol & Myers Squibb, Dole Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, PropertyGuys.com and more. In fact, one of their clients has 68 servers with 14 million active users.

The Spheric work culture is unique, to say the least. Operating from remote locations, and serving clients all over the world, they have developed a 3 level certification process that all staff go through to ensure they will mesh with the "hard days night" Spheric mojo. This creates continuity and ensures their team is prepared and passionate about the work they do as clients are served through a team-based approach and not lone individuals.

In the beginning, as anyone who has been with a start-up knows, Adam MacDonald, Andrew Foster, Cory Schop and Dan Martell all wore many different hats to get a fledgling company off the ground. Discover more for yourself at http://www.spheric.ca/

Today, gentlemen, our hats are off to you.


"Anyone who has lost track of time when using a computer knows the propensity to dream, the urge to make dreams come true and the tendency to miss lunch" TIM BERNERS-LEE

p.s.....Before he left Moncton to help launch other start-ups in Silicon Valley two weeks ago, Spheric's co-founder, Dan Martell shared some thoughts about the upcoming "Taking Flight" conference coming to Moncton, October 1-3, 2008. If you listen to what Dan says (and read between the lines) you will get some idea of the value Don Schmincke and Roy H. Williams bring to the table for any company that is serious about growth.

For more information on "Taking Flight" go to http://www.atlantichrconference.com/

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spreading Ideas

You live in a world of too many options and too little time.

One of your biggest challenges is to manage the inbox inventory and stay on top of all the messages that beg for a return. You wish you had more time to think, plan, refocus, but there is always so much to do.

"Gotta FedEx that package to Toronto before noon".

Anything that ain't solving a problem or making you money that day, gets mentally tossed aside.

You ignore ordinary stuff.

But you wish you had more customers.

Today, you have come to the right blog because I just happened to Google someone who understands your biggest challenges when it comes to getting your brand noticed by the people who have been ignoring you. Seth Godin is the author of 11 best-selling books, including "Meatball Sundae", FREE Prize Inside", "All Marketers Are Liars" and "Purple Cow", a concept Godin defines as offering a product or service that is remarkable. Some of the world's top companies pay a guy like Seth hundreds of thousands of dollars to help shape their vision and marketing strategies to be aligned in a world where the balance of power has now shifted 100% to the consumer.

In less time than it takes to shower and change, you can vividly see where your brand fits into this new world order, with some help from one of the world's best at what he does. And, best of all, you get to do it for FREE!

Godin maintains the only way for an idea to earn buzz is by being remarkable. And therein lies both the problem and the opportunity.

Few companies, fall into the "remarkable" category.

In my experience, it's less than 10%. Maybe less than 5%. There are only four slots in any business category and your brand will fit into one of the other three, unless you happen to be one of those rare folks who has invested the time and resources to create a remarkable brand. For the record, these three slots are decided by the way consumers spend their money each day. They are as follows:

1. "Better than average" - a few who are good at what they do.
2. "Average" - the majority who you can take or leave.
3. "Mediocre" - a few who just scrape by, hoping no one notices.

If you operate a small to medium-sized business,the slot marked "remarkable" is well within your grasp, providing you "get" what people like Seth Godin are saying. And while you may think branding is the sole domain of the Fortune 500 world, small businesses everywhere are starting to see the wisdom in doing remarkable things to separate themselves from the herd. One of those small companies in our area that is starting to head in that direction is PrimeX Painting. Driving through the city the other day, listening to the radio, the PrimeX commercial felt like a breath of fresh air. Didn't feel like I was being yelled at by yet another over-hyped, testosterone-fuelled car dealer or stereo shop. If you want, go to the website, click on the radio spot, and listen for yourself. http://www.primexpainting.com/

By definition, being remarkable means your brand is different.

In what meaningful ways are you doing things differently?

When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable. MEG WHITMAN


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Secret" Source

"Fear does not exist in the present. Any fear, worry or anxiety you feel comes from thinking about what might or could happen. Staying in the present eliminates fear."

A friend of mine has just returned from a 4-day retreat in California, designed for people who are shockingly serious about taking their personal and professional game to the next level. Sitting across the dinner, table I feel as though my friend is bursting with more energy than any of AC/DC's highest voltage rock n' roll. His mind is incredibly focused. Never been more grounded in knowing who he is. And having confronted and slayed his deepest inner dragons, is back to the business of making his business reflect that sense of purpose and direction.

"How you do anything, is how you do everything"

As I sat, listened and absorbed this vivid display of human energy, I was reminded of the writings of Napoleon Hill, author of the monumental best-seller, "Think and Grow Rich". If he were alive today, and had joined us for dinner the other night, Napoleon would have been tempted to knowingly nod at my friend and I, saying "I told you so".

Nap knew it as far back as 1908.

It was Hill who was more responsible than any other single person, for uncovering the formulas for personal and professional success and sharing them with the rest of the world. A former small-town reporter out of Virginia , he happened to be doing a series of articles on famous people when he just happened to have the opportunity to interview steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who at the time, just happened to be one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. It was Carnegie who suggested that his "secret" for attaining wealth could be duplicated by any average person who so desired, and that if Hill wanted to find out for himself, he would help him do that.

Carnegie commissioned Hill (without pay and only offering to provide him with letters of reference) to interview over 500 successful men and women, including Ford, Rockefeller, Edison, Eastman and at at least three U.S. Presidents in order to discover and publish this formula for success.

This project was completed and published by 1937.

"What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve" NAPOLEON HILL

Not only was he one of the wealthiest men on the planet, Hill's mentor appeared to enjoy a sunny disposition rivaled by few. In his book "Andrew Carnegie", biographer David Nasaw reveals that the vertically challenged Scotsman was optimistic and outgoing. “Carnegie’s sunny personality radiated warmth and light,” recalled James Bridge, Carnegie’s assistant in the 1880’s. “He loved to find his own joy of living reflected by those about him. He was the most consistently happy man I ever knew.” Carnegie made friends easily and had a keen eye for which friends to make on the way up and who to teach when he himself had "made it". But making bucket loads of cash was not enough. Unlike many of his capitalist brethren of that era, Carnegie had an intense need to improve the world while he was at it.

Fear and selfishness had no part to play in the Carnegie "secret" and Hill considered them to be the source of failure for unsuccessful people. In his introduction to the book, Hill calls this "secret" the foundation of all success and promises to indirectly describe it in every chapter, but never states it plainly. Napoleon believed that it is only available to those "students" who are are ready for their "teacher" to appear.

I'm both thrilled and proud of my friend for having traveled thousands of miles westward to discover new teachers and absorb the "secret" they have shared.

And I'm grateful for what he has reminded me over an unforgettable, electrifying dinner the other night on the East Side. Always good to go back to the "source".

"Gettin' had. Gettin' took. I tell you folks, it's harder than it looks. It's a long way to the top, if you wanna rock 'n' roll" BON SCOTT

How Women Score

Sitting at a friend's kitchen table the other day, I felt nothing but admiration for the choice Lisa had made.

An accomplished, award-winning marketing professional, Lisa decided about a year ago that certain races weren't worth entering. She knew where the the real cheese was to be discovered.

And that's what moved her to act.

These days, success for Lisa can be discovered while losing herself in the sheer joy of preparing an all-natural spaghetti sauce while enjoying the delights of a rambunctious 6-year old boy who makes her heart glow each time he wanders back into the kitchen. Her priorities are focused on Tae-Kwon-Do and minor hockey schedules as opposed to business correspondance that might be sitting in her Inbox. Despite the pressures of raising a child in a double-income, zero down-pay later, "he with the most toys wins" world, Lisa and her husband are doing it their way. A choice made that much tougher if you are a woman, accustomed to operating at the executive level in corporate environments.

I won't even come close to pretending that I could possibly understand the work/life balance issues that women like Lisa, struggle with each day, both on and off the job. As she puts it "You never feel as though you do one or the other any justice. It just wears you down after a while, knowing, no matter how many points you put up on each board, there is no way you can totally win at both games".

I may not be able to fully understand Lisa's (and millions of others) predicament, but I do empathize. For a change, I thought today is as good a day as any when those of us men, who regularly work with women, could pause and think about dilemmas we never face; guilt trips we never take. Maybe, just trying to imagine what it would be like to wear the shoes of another, can alter our perspective, if only for a moment.

Gals - this blog's for you.

Guys - it's for you too.


Special thanks to my friend Robin who is now based in Austria, for passing this offering from Liz Pabon along. Robin's choice for her ideal life was to work as a strength and conditioning coach for a men's professional sports team in Europe, another profession where it can't be easy to stickhandle through the maze of judgement and behind-the-back whispers that confront her on a daily basis. But, fitness is her passion; it's what she is all about and Robin's a top notch pro. She just lets her work speak for itself, compiling an impeccable track record; keeping her athletes healthy and helping them perform at peak levels.

Navigating to Liz Pabon's website, I was impressed with her ideas on separating our personal life from our professional life. The energy required some days to put on the "work face" can be draining for anyone, but its been my experience that women get tapped and zapped that much more. Some days there is only so much energy to go around which is why we all need to pause, reflect and give ourselves a chance to replenish this renewable resource. It also helps if we can make a connection with the essence inside us all that seamlessly links the brands we represent, our personal brand and the choices we make to live our brand of life.

My friends, Lisa and Robin - continents and worlds apart - have never met but, both share something in common as it relates to having courage to make certain choices when it comes to their life in business and their own business of life. Reading a John C. Maxwell (no relation) book the other day reminded me (again) that the opposite of courage is not cowardice, but instead conformity. The pressure to fit in, which began back in grade school, may be even more punishing now as we constantly measure ourselves against our own lofty expectations and by what we think others around us possess. The ultimate question is why?

And only you know your answer to that one.

Lisa and Robin are both capable, professional women who refuse to conform to any other definition of success but their own. Each playing their own game. Each keeping score their own way. Without caring in the least what other people think.

What game are you playing these days?

And how are you keeping score?

"Would that there were an award for people who come to understand the concept of enough. Good enough. Successful enough. Thin enough. Rich enough. Socially responsible enough. When you have self-respect, you have enough" GAIL SHEEHY

p.s... While a lot of men struggle with their gentler, feminine side, deep down , whether he cares to admit it or not, each guy can be a bit of a marshmallow.

Sometimes, on good story is all it takes for our softer side to rise to the surface.

This a true story, one I understand Sony is looking at turning into a major motion picture.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Paris? Y Not?

They've watched their parents buy into the "Go to College, Get a Job" scenario and know it doesn't work. At least not for them.

They see a job or career as more than just a paycheck. They demand a lifestyle to go with it. Their idea of a "workplace" is anywhere with Internet and cell phone access.

They are Gen Y. Hear and watch them roar.

They are social; embrace technology; have alarmingly short attention spans (compared to who?), with zero tolerance for hype, shallow advertising and will march in the streets to protect the environment. A walking paradox, Gen Y (arriving from 1979 to 1994) are notorious for having their cake, eating it, and then asking for seconds. These millennial hyper-taskers simultaneously grab burgers, surf the Web, text, watch TV and listen to their iPod while considering this behaviour "normal". Having been filled with a lifetime quota of advertising saturation by the time they reached Grade One, they are smart, savvy, and hyper-quick to reject "impostors". Not only reject, but they now have the power to turn the marketing gun around, pull the trigger and blast something back.

Case in point:

John McCain got people talking when he aired an ad comparing Barack Obama to style-over-substance celebrities like Paris Hilton; but the conversation really picked up when Hilton fired back with an entertaining rebuttal at the comedic website "Funny or Die". And this video retort has gone mainstream.

You can see the entire Paris Hilton rebuttal to the "white haired dude" at http://www.funnyordie.com/

While this episode goes down as a minus for the McCain camp, the other side of this brand equation sees the Obama campaign conducted with a near perfect understanding of how to appeal to those increasingly influential Gen Y's. Not only is he winning more of them over, he is actually motivating voter turnout. According to Advertising Age magazine, "Obama's success, it seems, is a result of both product and the branding behind it. The qualities he projects -- a cool, smooth aura, the communal values of hope and unity, his teeming crowds and his campaign's seamless graphics -- are the essence of appealing to millennials".

And if McCain thought he delivered a fastball with the Hilton comparison ad, Obama turned and hit it out of the park as far as Gen Y was concerned with his remark, "Is this the best you can do?" In other words, he "gets it". And as far as Gen Y is concerned, he "gets them".

What branding lessons might be learned from Barack Obama?

He is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand. His rising-sun logo, complete with an inviting, captivating portal is comparable to visual icons such as Pepsi, Apple and Starbucks. Mastery of cutting-edge social media through the my.barackobama.com site (known internally as "MYBO"), is another key element of the brand strategy at work. The back room strategists correctly understand that Gen Y demands control in their brand relationships. They want discussion boards, photo uploads and other interactive elements. These are some of the tools that create today's brand ambassadors.

Why not consider how this story applies to you and your brand? Does your brand make an emotional connection with these Gen Y customers in a way that aligns with their lifestyle? And how do you know for sure unless they are part of the discussion? Are there elements of your brand strategy that could be pulled out of the social media toolbox?

Like never before, your brand belongs to people (including Paris Hilton) who vote with their hearts, wallets and web applications.

"Innovation is the distinction between a leader and a follower" STEVE JOBS


Friday, September 12, 2008

Common Patterns, UnCommon Sense

“Don’t re-invent the wheel”!

More often than not you will hear this tired, familiar phrase expressed by those who naively believe their business model or brand can stand out in a crowd just because they happen to believe so. It’s tempting to say “why don’t we just study best practices and follow what other companies in our category are doing? Hey, if it’s proven and it works …”

This safe, logical risk-free approach will have many vertical, linear thinkers nodding in agreement. Unfortunately, don't hold your breath waiting for your company to become remarkable in anything it creates, says or does. You can't expect to innovate new products, services, techniques or develop a kick-ass brand promise and message without challenging fundamental assumptions about the business you are currently in. Otherwise, be prepared to resign yourself to a fate of incremental improvements at best. And don’t be surprised if and when you get blindsided by someone who decided to view things from a different, slightly haphazard, horizontal angle.

A little history lesson helps explain the concept.

More than a century ago, the automotive industry was created when legions of horseless carriage builders sprung up in scattered backyards and barns throughout North America and Europe. For the better part of 30 years, people like Karl Benz assembled their products, one at a time (often by hand) bringing together wheels & axles, engines, windshields and everything in between. These cars were then taken to market and sold primarily to wealthy customers as high end luxuries. Cars at that time were generally expensive and difficult to maintain. One of the early casualties of this business model was Detroit Automobile Co. going bankrupt in 1902 after selling fewer than half a dozen cars in two years, and firing it chief engineer.

Down, but not out, the unemployed engineer knew there had to be a better way. A year later, he formed his own company, went looking for answers – outside his own industry – and could not believe his eyes when visiting a slaughterhouse at the Union Stock Yards in Chicago and saw the "disassembly line". Cattle being cut apart as the carcasses moved along a conveyor. Butchers on either side of the line removing the same piece of the cow over and over.

Henry could not help but notice a common pattern and experienced a great breakthrough just by observing an industry or discipline outside his own. The next step was to use UnCommon Sense and simply reverse the process in his own category. By 1908, the Ford Motor Company plant was turning out thousands of Model T’s each month, leaving hundreds of Henry’s competitors choking in the dust of innovation.

Daring to think in this lateral, horizontal fashion allowed Henry Ford to see what so many others failed to. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, the world outside of your industry, market or profession is full of existing ideas that people have never fully capitalized upon, which may be adapted to your specific need or challenge. Vertical solutions or “best practices” are based on existing ideas or knowledge -- solutions others have already had some success - like drilling deeper into an existing oil well. Thinking from a broader perspective allows you to ask different questions, ones that stitch seemingly unrelated concepts and answers together. Lateral, horizontal thinking is like yeast. You don't need a great deal of it but you can't make bread or beer without it.

Where could you apply horizontal thinking and discover Common Patterns that make UnCommon Sense? Could you open a kaleidoscope of doors from industries or disciplines other than your own and picture windows that will magically open in the movie theatre of your imagination?

Henry Ford is but one in a long line of visionary, intuitive, innovators who took time to notice what was going on around them. Fred Smith got the idea for FedEx by noticing how banks processed and moved paperwork throughout their network. General Mills and Southwest Airlines spent countless hours watching and studying the pit crews of the Indy 500 to help improve turnaround times at manufacturing plants and airports. And the original McDonald brothers, Dick and Maurice borrowed Henry’s production line concept to make burgers, shakes and fries in a more efficient manner before Ray Kroc came along to franchise the idea and revolutionize the entire food service industry.

Right now, cosmic, universal knowledge is swirling around us like never before. Right now, the never trendy, but always fashionable Red Rocker has discovered some Common Patterns in his latest video that you may find intriguing.

Right now, it's Sammy Hagar's turn.

Hagar was recently quoted as sayng "When I wrote the lyrics to 'Right Now' I intended them to inspire people to not sit around and wait for something they believed in but to go out and get it -- to make a change however they needed to. In fact, I still feel so strongly about this that I wrote a new song 'Cosmic Universal Fashion' with a young Iraqi musician in an attempt to motivate a new generation to the same affect".

To discover UnCommon Sense for your business or career, be ready to sit down, think and ask:

What are the elements of the challenge I’m trying to solve?
• Who else (from a category other than my own) has dealt with a similar type problem?
• How did they solve it?
• Can it be adapted to my situation?

Answers to your biggest business or career issues could lay in many fields; architecture, agriculture, rock videos, military strategy, quantum physics, professional sports, the animal kingdom and who knows where else? Imagine discovering and pinpointing techniques and ideas, tested and proven in seemingly unrelated, but lateral, parallel worlds.

Are there Common Patterns you can picture right now that would make UnCommon Sense for your business - and by extension - your brand?

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have replied – faster horses”


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Checking the Surf

If you are starting a small business today, you’ve never been in more danger of drowning and going under. Unless, you are a little bit scared, slightly paranoid, and place a much higher priority on survival as opposed to success.

Here is why.

It has been well-documented that about 80% of small businesses don’t survive their first two years of operation. They crash and burn for entirely predictable reasons, most of which Michael Gerber reveals in his smashingly remarkable best-seller “The E-Myth Revisited”. (See, Sept. 4, 2008 posting: Re-Visiting, Re-Gifting)

What has not been documented to this point is how that 80% figure has been climbing since the year 2000. I have yet to uncover any quantifiable research to support that, however, first-hand observations from the foxholes of small business tell me the world has become a much different place for entrepreneurs, as compared to the late 90’s.

I mention that late 90’s because, that’s when my business begin its first shaky steps along the bumpy, winding, path to success. And, as I shared with a group of would-be entrepreneurs the other day, I believe it was a lot easier to get an infant company up and walking back then.

Back in the days before the World Went Flat.

Since the year 2000, the Industrial Revolution and the companies and thinking that emerged from it, has been rapidly steamrolled and flattened by the 21st century Digital Economy. Pulitzer Prize winner, Thomas Friedman contends in "The World is Flat", that traditional hierarchies and rules that governed the way we lived for centuries have been "flattened" forever by technology; leveling the playing field not just for countries and corporations, but for individuals. Friedman also makes a compelling case that the year 2000 represented a “perfect storm” of change with a Triple Convergence of a new platform (called the Internet), new work-flow processes that allowed for horizontal collaboration (which is why you can download your boarding pass at home) and about three billion new players (China, India etc.) entering the global marketplace, almost overnight, to compete and collaborate as never before.

Here is a short story Friedman shares to illustrate the point.

What does this "flat world" mean when it comes to starting a small business?

Let’s begin with the fact that business owners and shareholders are largely indifferent about where profits come from or where employment is created but still want sustainable companies. Which means a job now needs to be justified every day in terms of its value creation because in more and more cases, the job goes to the best, smartest, fastest or cheapest – no matter where they reside. You can’t afford to keep your head down as your new or existing business requires less automation and more ideation.

Prior to the year 2000, I'm of the opinion that owning a small business was a lot like playing checkers. Patterns were predictable. There were few surprises. You enjoyed a stable playing field with time to think and plan. You could actually see your opponent as both of you employed a limited number of options/tactics while operating in a confined, defined space. And in the late ‘90’s and the decades before, the world was a slower, more forgiving place with higher numbers of trusting and patient customers.

But since 2000, and especially over the last 36 months, owning a small business has become similar to riding a surfboard. The currents are unpredictable patterns with surprises and sudden shifts by the nano-second. The constantly shifting playing field demands you think quickly, on your feet with little time to plan. There are many options when it comes to the equipment you want to use, who you buy it from and where you want to use them. And all of this happens in an ocean of unlimited space with unknown threats, and less trusting, hurried customers.

Checker player or surfer? Which one are you?

More importantly, what do you need to be?

It has been my experience that people starting companies rely far too much on habitual beliefs and conventional wisdom based on outdated, Industrial Revolution concepts, rendering their vision obsolete, even before opening day. Sadly, even when timeless truths are revealed about business in a new, flat world, most owners cling desperately to their checkerboards, hoping and praying the riptides of globally-influenced change from the Hang Ten crowd won’t wash over them. Avid surfers know that swell is generated when wind blows consistently over a large area of open water. Why would anyone expect the Sea of Commerce to react any differently to this tsunami of change?

It’s a new brand wave out there.

Is it time you traded in one board for another?

"In surfing, coming to terms with death -- or at least the possibility -- is an ongoing crisis in big waves. The set is building outside, and it's so beautiful, aesthetically. People are watching in awe from the beach: the blue water, the stiff offshore winds, the 40-foot walls charging in from the open ocean. If you're out there with nothing but your body, your wits and a surfboard, that set can be your coffin” BRUCE JENKINS, North Shore Chronicles

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Great Scott

As soon as he walked by, I knew it had to be HIM.

After all, how many others could there be? There could only be one of this kind.

I had stumbled across this story in cyberspace about 6 or 8 months ago, and now, out of nowhere, here he is, staying at the same hotel, just walking by minding his own business. Instantly, I knew, I had to make an approach and get the scoop on Scott.

Meet Scott Ginsberg.

The ONLY person in the world who wears a nametag all day and every day.

Not just at conventions and seminars. A nametag ... 24/7/365!

It all started out as an experiment in November of 2000 following a college orientation event. For some reason, Scott looked at the piles of discarded name tags sitting in garbage cans after the event and decided right then and there to keep his on. As he shared with me that day, "Some people see trash, others see treasure".

Scott never thought it would lead to this ...

Scott has transformed wearing a nametag into a successful business and is the author of seven books including HELLO, my name is Scott, The Power of Approachability, How to be That Guy and Make a Name for Yourself. In 2008, Scott launched his Online Training Network, NametagTV.com., an interactive learning community that teaches approachability through video modules, message boards and other tools. As one of the youngest members of National Speakers Association, Scott delivers keynote speeches and seminars to tens of thousands of people each year and has shared the stage with bestselling authors/speakers like Jeffrey Gitomer and Jim Collins and has worked with a client base that includes Boeing, Staples and Verizon Wireless.

Scott Ginsberg has no trouble stating a case, of which he is certain ... the importance of just DOING it. If you get a great idea, just START. Once you figure out what you want to do, all that matters is doing it, learning as you go, screwing up and making mistakes but eventually you figure things out. Originally, Scott just wanted to have a little fun with the nametag gimmick, but before long it became much more. It became a quest to change the way people interact with one another. Scott thinks people have lost the ability for simple interaction (like greeting one another in the street.) So, his theory is that with his nametag, he makes himself more approachable and easier to talk to.

As of this posting, Scott Ginsberg has worn a name tag for 2,870 consecutive days.

He is 28 years old.

"There is no reason to think that age is a barrier. I mean, I read five books a week. I write five hours a day. I ask a lot of questions. I have got a bunch of mentors. I mean, I am a lifelong learner, and I think that there is lot of stuff you can do, especially the young entrepreneur can make the learning curve nonexistent". SCOTT GINSBERG

Learn more at: http://www.hellomynameisscott.com/landing.aspx

Evidently, Scott Ginsberg has taken "personal branding" to an entirely new level but I think his insight into the way we interact with each other reveals much more.

Is there a lesson in his story that speaks to a larger concept than the way we remove invisible barriers with people we meet each day?

Has Scott demonstrated how to release the shackles of conformity that prevent us from discovering our authentic selves?

"For what is a man? What has he got? If not himself - Then he has naught. The record shows I took the blows And did it my way". PAUL ANKA


Monday, September 8, 2008

Personal Frequencies

Fiddling with the knobs as you exceed credit balances and relationship speed limits on the Highway of Life, you struggle to tune in a radio station called Opportunity. Signals fade in and out, crackling voices barely audible. Before long you give up and turn your attention elsewhere.

After all, you can't be bothered any longer. You’re in a rush.

The very next day, you bump into an old friend and spend the next half hour or so transmitting Life’s frustrations, the various maladies, obstacles and people who stand in your way. You wonder why the “breaks” haven’t gone your way, silently cursing that lousy bastard called Opportunity who still hasn’t had the decency to pound loudly on your door.

Your emotional backlash registers and is duly noted on a timeless wavelength.

I feel your pain my friend, for I too, have felt frustration being on a wavelength of "want".

One day, my hope is that you are lucky enough to discover that Opportunity operates neither randomly nor heartlessly. One day, you may even begin to adjust your settings from “transmit” to “receive”, and tune in the gentle vibration of Opportunity, incessantly whispering in your ear.

Occasionally, those whispers are draped in a dark cloak, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. Only an investment of stillness, reflection and preparation will allow you to “see” the light of Opportunity and experience what those around you refer to as “good luck”. Rarely does a successful person “luck” into things as much as you'd like to think they do. Good luck is merely the residue of Reflection & Preparation meeting Opportunity step by step, creating great friendships and/or fortunes. Put another way, dumb L.U.C.K. seems to happen whenever we Labor Under Correct Knowledge.

Tired of waiting for extraordinary opportunities?

Then seize that which is common, slow down and recognize the faint signals which offer hints of greatness - and then do something about it! The timid and tuned-out will continue aimlessly shuffling about, waiting and hoping while you join the intrepid and insightful who continuously make their own breaks. As Edison once stated “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

But, first you will have to learn to put life in neutral - if only for a moment. Allow your inner voice (the critic) to fall silent and discover how the "Secret" to listening is truly hearing both the "Words and the Music."

Emiliana Torrini learned to listen to the whisper years ago while working as a waitress at a well-known Italian restaurant her father owns and operates in Iceland. You can discover how it worked for her at http://www.emilianatorrini.com/

For the record, there are also physiological reasons why it is difficult for any one of us to re-set our dial from transmit to receive. Science confirms our human brains are just too fast for our own good. The average person speaks at about 125-150 words/minute but we can listen and comprehend up to 600 words/minute. The result is a listening channel usually underutilized 4 to 5 times its capability. Counteracting that requires a concious effort on your part.

Whispers only register with a mind that is still.

Do you take enough time be still, really be still and pick up the signals loud and clear?

Is there an Opportunity, one close to your heart, whispering to you right now?

“Invisible airwaves crackle with life, bright antennae bristle with the energy”


Ground Breaking Rockers

In their best-selling book "Groundswell", authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff have clearly identified and clarified something we all know is happening, but can't quite put a finger on.

Right now, your customers are reviewing your products on blogs, spoofing your commercials on YouTube, defining you on Wikipedia and gossiping about you on Facebook. Li and Bernoff refer to this as the "groundswell" - a social media phenomenon — creating a permanent shift in the way business is done and brands are built.

Most companies see it as a threat.

Some, like you, can see it as an opportunity.

PropertyGuys.com, the Canadian franchising phenom out of Moncton, NB sees the opportunity and has wasted no time tapping into the "groundswell". For example, the Canadian Franchise Association show the end of this month in Vancouver, B.C. provides a platform for the 2008 CFA Award of Excellence Winners to apply social media techniques to boost the impact of their upcoming appearance.

Atlantic Business Hall-of-Famer Ken LeBlanc and Walter Melanson look forward to sharing their insights on the franchising industry when they appear at the Sheraton Wall Centre, September 27th and 28th. And, thanks to the "groundswell", word of their impending visit is spreading.

In "Groundswell", Li and Bernoff describe how the world has been transformed by social technologies and how companies can cope in a world where they no longer control their own brands. Power is shifting from companies to people so much and so fast trying to stop it is like "trying to take pee out of a pool." To engage the groundswell, Li and Bernoff recommend companies follow four stages summarized by the acronym POST: People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology. In other words, people first, technology last.

The groundswell is inevitable.

You can ignore it at your own peril. Or, you can learn to ride its wave and choose to thrive in it. Companies like PropertyGuys.com with the vision to harness the power of these tides will be the ones reaping the rewards.

Are you fully to speed on the "groundswell"?

If not, you might want to surf on over to Third Tuesday NB and their Social Media Event in Moncton, NB, September 16th at Kramer's which is generously supported by great people like Lisa Rousseau, Chris Nadeau and David Alston. This month, Amber MacArthur and Jeff MacArthur will be hosting a workshop about engaging an audience online using video and other Web 2.0 tools. The team will also be shooting an episode of commandN.tv on location. Find out more at http://www.thirdtuesdaynb.com/

Gotta go.

Surf's up.

"I'm a speed king you go to hear me sing. I'm a speed king see me fly"

Friday, September 5, 2008

Collective Genius

"It's just an HR Conference isn't it"?

Bumped into an old friend the other day who now owns a small business, and talk turned to "Taking Flight", the upcoming Atlantic HR Conference in Moncton NB, October 1-3, 2008. A three-day, once-in-a-lifetime chance to tap into world-class CEO, Leadership, Branding and Marketing expertise all under one roof with not one, but two, global authorities on these subjects in Don Schmincke (http://www.donschmincke.com/) and Roy H. Williams (http://www.wizardacademy.com/).

Karen continued, "I just thought it was only for HR people not for owners like me. By the way, I should talk to you about who you know that's out there looking. I'm going to need to hire some people and soon".

I replied, "Don't you think the people side of the business, IS the business. I mean what else is there if you don't have the HR side looked after and aligned with what you are trying to achieve? Is there a more important asset to a business than people?"

With the business world more competitive and confusing than it has ever been in human history, the challenge for any owner - no matter the size of the company - is to stand out from a crowd that only gets bigger and louder. One of the best ways to separate yourself is to stop competing against everyone else in your category and find ways to re-define the entire playing field. It's a strategy that seems to have worked for WestJet which is why key people from the Calgary-based airline have been invited to speak at the Atlantic HR Conference to share what they know about marketing from the inside out.

What is that WestJet could see that 28 airlines bankrupted in Canada over the past quarter-century were blind to? Is it possible that the greatest marketing comes from the inside out and that HR is often left of that equation in terms of what it can bring to the table? Is there something VP of Talent Janice Webster and Tyson Matheson (The Rock Star of People!) could share that might allow you to duplicate some of their dizzying success?

Let's face it, you know you're good when the Rick Mercer Report spoofs how good you really are.

WestJet is one of those companies that "get it".

And while many of their competitors in one of the most turbulent of industries have crashed as businesses, WestJet has obviously figured something out. It's at conferences like "Taking Flight" that allow people like Karen, who care about the future of their companies and their brands soak up new insights that create a competitive edge. But often, when the rate of external change outpaces the rate of internal change - disaster is just around the corner. Only when you wind up in a room with reputable thought leaders, do certain thoughts begin to dawn on you. Gradually, you realize you are not alone, nobody can do it alone and nobody has all of the answers. But after several days, you have more answers than over 90% of the business population as you leverage the collective genius around you.

Genius is not a word I throw around casually.

But two of the people on the stage October 1-3, in Moncton NB, just happen to soar in that intellectual stratosphere. They are among the best of the very best in the world at what they do. One has made more small business owners filthy rich than anyone else on the planet. The other is regarded as a Top 10 speaker by the world's #1 CEO organization. Details at http://www.atlantichrconference.com

Hope you get to experience what so many others will either ignore or dismiss because they don't see the connection.

"Human beings are creators, flinging powerful images into the minds of their fellow men. And all of these images are built of tiny particles of thought" ROY H. WILLIAMS

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Re-Visiting, Re-Gifting

It was a gift like no other.

Not a gift I received from someone else. There was no elegant wrapping paper, matching box or sentimental card trumpeting its entry into my world.

This is a gift I bought and paid for myself. A gift from me to me, fiirst opened in late '99.

Re-opened it again a number of times over the subsequent 24 months, frantically marked it up, even spilled coffee on its cover.

Opened it again 3-and-a-half years after starting the climb; pulverized by blinding insight that landed straight between the sockets, sending shock waves to the imagination.

And again, this past oh-so-short New Brunswick summer, there were more electrifying revelations thanks to the gift that Michael Gerber shares with entrepreneurs and would-be business owners world-wide with "The E-Myth Revisited".

Do you think, maybe, perhaps, just maybe, Gerber has written much more than just another business book?

That's like saying The Eagles just cut another record when they released "Hotel California" or Spielberg just shot another movie when "Saving Private Ryan" appeared in theatres. If you ever hope to survive life in the business fast lane without getting slaughtered, financially, emotionally and in every way possible, RUN, don't walk and discover this gift for yourself. In my opinion, Gerber's masterpiece is the only one I heartily endorse with a money-back guarantee whether I am talking to an entrepreneur one-on-one or addressing a business audience through the course of my speaking engagements. The guarantee goes like this: "You go spend the 25 bucks or so on E-Myth Revisited and if you don't see the value in what Gerber is saying, I'll buy the book back from you - no questions asked. And just so you know, I don't make a nickel off it - I just believe in the book that much".

Why does Gerber's message matter so much to entrepreneurs?

I believe it has to do with having a clear understanding of business basics rarely found elsewhere; fundamentals that exist beyond any sort of traditional thinking and beliefs of what we are inclined to think the world of business is all about. In a nutshell, here are some of the pearls you'll find buried in the pages of this entrepreneurial epic.
  • E-Myth: The entrepreneurial myth that most people who start small businesses are entrepreneurs. Most just start a business as a place to go to work.
  • The Fatal Assumption: That an individual who understands the technical work of a business can successfully run a business that does technical work.
  • Clarity: The difference between working “on” your business not “in” it. The business is not your life. They are two totally separate things.
  • Purpose: The sole function of a business is to create and keep customers.
Whether you have already immersed yourself in "E-Myth" thinking or you have just made it the next book on your list, I thought you would enjoy this story from the author himself.

If you are already in business or want to start your own, Michael Gerber forces you to ask the owner of that business some of the toughest questions that demand answering. And these are not the types of questions that your banker or customer will ask, but do require answers nonetheless. Ignorance of the Laws of the Business Universe is no excuse and part and parcel of that is having clarity on the Primary Aim of why you are heading to the mountain in the first place.

What kind of life you want? What do you value? Do you want to own a business or have it own you? Who do you wish to become when you're all growed up?

Last night, I enjoyed dinner and inspiring conversation with a business partner, client and most of all a great friend who now lives a life most only dream about thanks in no small part to the bountty that lies within E-Myth Revisited. But, the greatest treasure he currently enjoys, has nothing to do with money. He is one of the few business owners I know, that has learned something so precious that only comes to those who venture out and take the lonely hike up the mountain Gerber describes in the video.

Are you going to be the type who will do what it takes to begin that journey?

Will you actually do it?
"Relax,’ said the night man,We are programmed to receive.You can checkout any time you like, But you can never leave"! (HENLEY, FELDER, FREY)

p.s...Another New Brunswick friend of mine who used "E-Myth Revisited" as a launch pad for his business education is lifting off again - this time in Silicon Valley. You can learn how Dan Martell is relaunching by clicking here: http://nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com/journal/article/403937

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bad Medicine

Imagine selling a product or service that blatantly advertises its shortcomings.

Buckley's Mixture adopted that brand strategy more than two decades ago with its promise ...

"It tastes awful. And it works."

Buckley's Mixture has tasted horrible since it was developed by W.K. Buckley, a Toronto pharmacist, in 1919. He discovered several natural ingredients used in the treatment of coughs and colds (the recipe is a closely guarded company secret) combining them to create a signature product. By the mid-1980s, and with sales lagging Buckley's son, Frank, decided on a new campaign that trumpeted its truly awful taste and remarkable healing powers.The strategy worked as Buckley's won several advertising awards, gained significant market share as sales surged while lifting brand value with it.

Don't you feel admiration for brands that have no qualms about stating it the way it is? Buckley's isn't for everyone. And they have stuck to their guns even though there's been a lot of pressure to introduce a better tasting mixture.Of course, if Buckley's didn't work, all that taste-bud torture would be for naught and the product wouldn't sell. In other words, this brand delivers on its promise - warts and all.

And would you believe Buckley's customers don't mind one bit?

Another brand seeing the wisdom in keeping it real these days is Google. But not so much from their ads and what they say but more from what they actually DO in serving their customers. Here is part of an e-mail sent out last week, (August 27 to be exact), to a friend of mine who happens to be a Google Apps customer.

We're committed to making Google Apps Premier Edition a service on which your organization can depend. During the first half of August, we didn't do this as well as we should have. We had three outages - on August 6, August 11, and August 15. The August 11 outage was experienced by nearly all Google Apps Premier users while the August 6 and 15 outages were minor and affected a very small number of Google Apps Premier users. As is typical of things associated with Google, these outages were the subject of much public commentary.Through this note, we want to assure you that system reliability is a top priority at Google. When outages occur, Google engineers around the world are immediately mobilized to resolve the issue. We made mistakes in August, and we're sorry. While we're passionate about excellence, we can't promise you a future that's completely free of system interruptions. Instead, we promise you rapid resolution of any production problem; and more importantly, we promise you focused discipline on preventing recurrence of the same problem. Given the production incidents that occurred in August, we'll be extending the full SLA credit to all Google Apps Premier customers for the month of August, which represents a 15-day extension of your service. SLA credits will be applied to the new service term for accounts with a renewal order pending. This credit will be applied to your account automatically so there's no action needed on your part.We've also heard your guidance around the need for better communication when outages occur. Here are three things that we're doing to make things better ....

Once again, thanks for you continued support and understanding.

The Google Apps Team

Legendary advertising guru Bill Bernbach captured it best when he opined, "Here is a great gimmick, let's tell the truth". Bernbach successfully applied that philosophy throughout his career which included award-winning campaigns such as Volkswagen's "Think Small" and "We Try Harder" from Avis. Bill felt that no matter how skillful you are, you can't invent a product advantage that doesn't exist. And if you do, and it's just a gimmick, it's going to fall apart anyway.

Bad medicine is good business.

Are there other brands you've noticed that do a good job at delivering the unvarnished truth? Don't you admire people and brands a lot more when they give it to you straight, sparing you the candy-coated bulls&*%?

In what ways could your brand leverage good stuff that bad medicine brings?

"Your love is like bad medicine, bad medicine is what I need" JON BON JOVI