Wednesday, November 26, 2008


If three people come up with the same idea at the same time, who makes the money?

The one that doesn't think -- it's the one that acts fast!

I was recently looking for a service that my customers can text an ID# of a property and they would then receive a text with the property's information in return. I used good old google and found a company that specializes in SMS applications. I called them and talked to a sales associate that asked me if I was the same person that called two times already about this. I said no, I guess others are coming up with the same idea. Sounds like a perfect business for someone that can program. The guy said, "Yeh, I guess."

Man-o-man! I would have been all over it if that was my business! I have everything in place and a proven demand -- I would have been up all night trying to figure this one out. I would have had my guys on a caffeine-high for a week and sales people lined up to sell it.

So I go on Google again because I need it NOW not in a week. I find I have them contact me (they called me in minutes). No only can they do just what I want but they have a special feature just for my business-line (property management/realtors). Kim was very pleasant and helpful. They won the idea race by far!

Why don't people recognize opportunity when it's pounding on their skull? I just don't understand. Maybe it is because they have been conditioned to not pay any attention to good ideas and just do their job.

Sometimes the idea is just too expensive to develop. The good ones usually are. So why not come up with a smaller implementation of it? Something people would pay a dollar for instead of $1000.

Well hopefully you are looking for these ideas and taking advantage of them. Otherwise someone else is going to win the race today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Know Thy Competition Better Than They Know You

When I wake up each morning, I look at my competitor's website -- not my own.


Because it's more important to see what THEY are doing, what THEY are offering, THEIR statistics, what opportunities THEY are missing and what systems THEY are copying of mine.

I'm not too concern how my site looks from day-to-day except to know it's working and up-to-date.

In other words, it's more important to know my competitors better than myself. This is very important as a company grows for 2 reasons:

1) Complacency. You tend to get too cocky and don't pay attention to your competitor thinking they are not worth your valuable time. Meanwhile, your clients are giving more attention to your competitor than an accident on the I-75!

2) They are going to copy you or one-up you. Be VERY careful. You will be copied and someone that works for your competitor will figure out a better, faster, cheaper, new way to beat the hell out of you. It will be their sole purpose in life to hammer you into bankruptcy. Do not fool yourself and think this person does not exist.

Many famous companies have disobeyed number 1 and 2. Look at Microsoft edging into Apple's territory while Apple just sat there. Again look at what Netscape and Linux did to Microsoft. More recently look what Honda and Toyota have did to the big three! They have nearly put them into Chapter 11. I am sure there was some Chrysler exec. saying "Who cares? They are losing out on the SUV profits we are making by focusing on small gas-sippers."

Don't make the mistake of looking in the mirror at yourself all day. Get to know every inch of your competitor instead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Try It All, Try Once and Knock It Out of The Park

There are two theories to success:

1) Try everything you possibly can and eventually one will work.

2) Know what you're going to do with certainty, DO IT and be successful at it no matter what!

I have always tended towards #2.

History: The first job I went after...I got.
The first article I wrote...was published.
The first book I wrote...was published.
My first business...was successful.
The first high paying job I applied for...I not only got but it developed into a job with dream terms.

Needless to say, I knew what I wanted, researched it and approached it as though I was the only one on the planet that was going to get it. I never even considered competitors. The advantage I had over all other applicants was I didn't hesitate. I never listened to anyone telling me it could not be done.

"Why would you even try? You don't have experience."

I didn't listen. I just did it!

Call it stupidity, call it aggressiveness. I call it the path to success.

All business actions in my opinion should follow this. Why? Two reasons:

1) Pure mathematics. It is cheaper to do something once and be successful the first time than try 5, 10 or 100 times and only be successful once.

2) The power of your abilities. Most people do not know this but you have many more senses than 5. You can sense something that will be successful and focus on making it successful. I am not talking having blind faith in yourself...I am saying start on instinct, gather data, reevaluate the instinct, gather more data, survey, and finally just GO FOR IT!

You KNOW if you are capable of doing something. The thing that usually stops us is fear. To overcome it do your homework, listen to stories of other successful people and talk to people.

Swing and KNOW you are going to knock it out of the park. Crack!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mining for Gold

While trying to figure out how to collect a specific piece of data from I happened upon the following site:

What is amazing about it is you can type in the name of a site and get all the demographics you can ever want FOR FREE!

And the information is PRICELESS.

Let's take the following as an example:

From their data, I determined my demographic is 63% women likely between the age of 18-34 that also want to rent either a car or moving truck, are looking for a better job and possibly want to buy a home instead.

This gives me so many ways to target my demographic that it scares me.

I know who to target, what their income is likely at, their race, whether they have children, if they graduated college, on and on.

Check it out!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Entrepreneur's Prime Ingredient

What is the most important trait an entrepreneur needs in order to succeed (and by 'succeed' I mean survive and even thrive) in the worst of times?

Is it their ability to envision?

Is it their drive?

Is it their communication skills?


It's their ability to BE AGGRESSIVE!

But what does this mean? Merriam-Webster has many definitions for aggressive, such as:

1 a: tending toward or exhibiting aggression b: marked by combative readiness 2 a: marked by obtrusive energy b: marked by driving forceful energy or initiative : enterprising 3: strong or emphatic in effect or intent 4: growing, developing, or spreading rapidly 5: more severe, intensive, or comprehensive than usual especially in dosage or extent.

So what do I mean by "BE AGGRESSIVE" then?

1) Make decisions fast and swift and stick by them. Why? Other's unconsciously follow your lead if you have Definiteness of Purpose. Customer's will gravitate to you because they will feel your aggressiveness and will naturally follow your lead. Employees will know they are putting their faith in the hands of someone that is NOT WISHY WASHY.

2) Do not let anyone falter from your decision. In other words, if someone says no to your decision, find someone else or make them follow it. That is aggressiveness at its core. If you are truly aggressive though, people will jump at your commanding decision and thank you for it.

What I don't mean is to be a bossy prick! I mean LEAD!


In other words, if it was a marriage, you would be the one making simple fast decisions. "Where do we eat tonight?" "Nandos at 8pm, wear something sexy!" And your mate would be there with wonder in their eyes.

In the case of your business, a client may ask, "Do you think we should advertise in the Star?" "No. Not enough turn over. We will use Kijiji and have 2 to 1 turn over. Ads will be ready by tonight." Your client will see you as an expert as you answered fast and decisively.

I remember a friend of mine. He was the most non-decisive entrepreneur you would want to know. We recently caught up with each other and he said something is different about me. You are more something. It was that I was more aggressive. Decisions made fast. Commanding!

Here are some hints to help you become more aggressive and survive bad times.

Practice: Command, don't ask. Know the data before commanding but DO command fast once decision is made.

Practice: Decide now, not later. Do not delay decisions. In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell describes our ability to make life-defining decisions in the blink of an eye. It is built into us to do this so DO IT! Practice this with small decisions first then move up.

Practice: Meet with people you have previously been wishy-washy with and make a decision. Call them and TELL them to meet you at Swiss Chalet and do not waver. If they say, "well what about going to Taco Bell?" say "No. Swiss Chalet is good. See you there at 7pm at the back table."

Being aggressive can be learned and refined. Remember that a majority of people want decisions made for them. "Should we buy the blue or the black"? They do not want to be responsible for the consequences of a bad decision but once someone makes the decision for them, it becomes more settled in their minds. Decisions HAVE to be made or nothing would get done.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Business' Perfect Storm

Again to one of my fav subjects: "Will XYZ business work?"

A profitable business is a mix of a pain-curing product (doesn't have to be something space age just solve a true pain), large enough market, a passionate team, a concrete system in place, financial projections that are realistic....


This is rare.

Take for instance a product that every "Vintage Mustang Collector" would kill to have. How many Vintage Mustang Collectors is there in your scope of reach? 10,000? Of that 10,000, how many would actually and realistically buy it? 10%? That would leave a sales figure of 1000 units. How much would they pay for it and will that cover your costs and make a profit?

That's the tough one.

Someone may WANT your product, will do anything for it except take more than $10 out of their pockets for it. So that leaves you a potential income of $10,000. What if the mold to make it cost $20,000? What about shipping it. Keeping the books, etc.

Now let's take another example. Say you have a small computer application that enables a hidden feature on a specific cellphone. And let's say there are 1,000,000 potential customers and maybe 50% would die for this. They would pay ANYTHING to have it. But you are going to be generous and only charge $20 and let them download it from a website. You are going to offer an affiliate program for 15% of the profits. The costs to make it are say $2000 and a website cost $100/mn. That is a potential income of $8.5 million with virtually no costs and your affiliates are doing all the work. In other words, the perfect storm!

So that's where the analysis of the market BEFORE you begin a business comes into play. What is the market size, who is the target demographic, how much would they pay for your product/service, how much does it cost to deliver it to them.

If a product or business idea cannot stand up to the numbers (even if it's the best idea since sliced bread), it just ain't going to make you money.

Find the businesses that will solve a ton of peoples problems, make sure they will pay what it takes to make money and allow you to deliver it at a low cost. Make the perfect storm!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Business is the Mother of Invention - Not the other way around!

Two of the most famous inventors in history were diametrically opposed. Tesla was an inventor but Edison was an Inventor/Businessman. Telsa died virtually penniless despite huge contributions to society and Edison's fortune is still there today. The two men actually knew each other when Tesla first came to America. Why the history lesson?

I am well known for my opinion on patents and how they relate to business. In a nutshell, I do not believe simply inventing/patenting something is going to get you rich and spending money on expensive patent attorneys, prototypes and studies is only going to make someone else rich. Ideas are a dime a dozen and do not sell themselves. That takes a solid business system and brilliant marketing. Almost any decent invention can make you rich with the system/marketing combo. You don't even have to invent something to sell it.

Check out the father of patent licensing at: This is the guy that made millions from ant farms and fly cakes.

Having said that, I am going outside my usual thoughts and giving some good videos and patent resources.

US Patent and Trademark Office where you can search patents. I use it to get ideas for new products. You can actually search a specific company and see their devices before they are even released to the public. Click here for an example of APPLE.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Info! Gimme More Info. Don't Tease Me!

I ABSOLUTELY HATE ads that do not give any info. What's worse is an ad you have to call to even get a price or to see a photo.

I recently passed a sign while driving to a park. It said, "Lot for Sale. 555-5555". It was huge! Someone probably spent a ton of money having it made. Mind as well given that money to charity as it would have did more good.


It had none of the information a potential buyer would be looking for. Here are the questions that should have been answered for me.
  • Who is selling it?
  • What exactly are they selling?
  • What size is the property?
  • What comes with it?
  • HOW MUCH? (if you can't put it on a sign, it's too much!).
  • Is there a way for me to get further information?
Here is what the sign should have said: "70FTX120FT empty builder lot for sale. $150,000. Contact John at 555-5555 or visit for further details and photos."

The thing is, people don't want to call someone just to get info these days. They don't want to talk to a live person and waste their valuable time for information that should have been on the sign. We live in the age of instance information gratification so don't handicap your business by not answering people's questions and wasting their valuable time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Waste Time

Time is worth more than money. More specifically, YOUR time (as a business builder) is worth more than money. Hands down!

People often focus only on saving money when they should be thinking about saving TIME.

Each thing I do while working IN my business I say to myself, "How can I do this faster? Can I pay someone else to do this so I can put my time on more important things?" I don't think for one second, "How can I do this cheaper?" I think, if I spend money on this product, how much time will it save and how much will that time cost me? If I hire someone to wash this wall, how much time does that save me?"


Because once your business has grown, YOU will not be doing all the jobs you think you are saving money on. In other words, at some point you will be having to pay someone for THEIR TIME. This can vary according to the skill. Let's look at how much skill versus time cost and then think if you are really saving money.

Rates in my city (Windsor, ON Canada)
1) General Labour $8 to 10/hr
2) Skilled (construction) $15 to 20/hr
3) Professional Services $30 to $100/hr
4) Exec, Visionary $250 to 500/hr

Ok, let's say you are a #4 doing the work of a #1. In eight hours you are actually losing $3,920 (8X500=$4,000 minus 8X10 = $80)

Now as regards to products saving time. I use a spinner to wash paint rollers. It saves about 10 minutes of cleaning and cost me $20. Let's say it has saved me 100 hours over the life of the tool. That tool will have saved me $180 of labour I would have paid someone to wash rollers the old fashion way. The same could be said about buying a photocopier instead of running to a store to make copies.

Always consider time; do not just focus on money.

And always remember, each time you are trying to save money by doing something yourself, it is likely costing you 100 times more than you thought. Your time is worth a fortune as the business builder!

Answer A Question, Get A Prize; Business!

I have been considering selling my home recently. Another similar model just sold down the street and I thought I would call the agent that represented the seller (don't get me started on the ethics and tactics of R/E Agents).

I had one question for him, "How much did the house sell for?"

He called me back quickly and I asked the question. He started into a spiel about how real estate is priced and he would have to see the house, blah blah. BUT, and this is the part that surprised me, he blurted the price it went for and explained in detail why it went for what it did.

I was shocked. Not at the price it went for (it went for exactly how much I predicted, I know the market). I was shocked that he answered my question.

Most agents I know will not do this. They figure they have a potential client on the phone and want to reel them in. But what most agents do not factor in is the sophistication of their clients.

For example, I know the real estate market in my city. It is my business to know. I know what RENTS, what Sells and why it Sold or didn't sell. In the case of this house, I merely wanted to know if my prediction was correct and base the sale of my own house on this. In other words, I just didn't have the data I required and he had it.

I didn't have an agent in mind (I don't have luck with many agents as my business is sort of anti-agent oriented). But I do have an agent in mind now. Why? The guy answered my question. He tried to figure out the sophistication of my real estate knowledge and didn't try to hard sell me on evaluation BS.

Lesson, answer your potential client's questions (even if you think you should not) and get their business. Honest, down-to-earth conversation always wins me over. How about you?

Employees with Profit on Their Brains

A company owner is constantly thinking about profit.

A manager is thinking about how to make sure those profits become a reality and how to increase them using a system.

A typical employee thinks about their paycheck at the end of the week (in other words, anti-profit).

How do you get them all to think of profit?

Profit sharing. This means that the better the company does, the better the employee gets paid. True capitalism.

But I know what you are saying, "Why give up the gold?"

Because the more people focus on the gold, the more gold is made -- thus increasing your share of that gold.

For example:

Say your share of the equity of a business is 100% and your profits are 100K at the end of the year with no profit sharing. That's 100K no matter how you look at it. Now let's give up 25% equity to the employees (managers and workers). Those same employees will work harder and have a much keener eye on profit and likely double your profits. So now your share is $150K/year for doing nothing but share the pie.

I'm sorry to tell you this but people work for their own agenda. They do not think to themselves, "Gee, I wish I can make my company more money today even though I only make minimum wage (or average wage)." They have different goals in mind and it is the way it should be.

Think of it this way. Say a company was a doorway. The goal of the company is to keep that door open. If you have one thousand people walking through this doorway (employees) each with their own goal (to get where they are going), both parties get their goal met (the companies door stays open and the employees get where they are going.

Profit sharing makes this easier for them to reach their goals and you to reach yours: MORE GOLD!

'Lookin Busy' and Other Bad Traits!

My fiance was recently telling me a story about a group that is investigating her work performance. She said that each time they come in she has to look busy or lose her job.

Why do people think that looking busy equals productivity and thus profit.

Let's take her example. She operates a machine that produces thousands of products per hour. She makes sure things are humming and the company makes more money when the machine is running smooth than if something is wrong. Her functions are as such:

1) Make sure the machine is running correctly
2) Loads new programs to vary the product
3) Supervises the loading and loads support material (boxes, bag rolls, etc.)

In other words the machine is automating many functions and she is making sure the machine is doing it's job (the machine's boss!)

So in my eyes, if she is 'lookin busy' the company is actually losing money from product not being pumped out. In other words, if she is busy, somethings wrong with the machine. She should be standing there watching a well oiled machine do ITS JOB!

My old boss used to tell me, look busy when the big-wigs are around but any other time, if you need to sit and think, do it! There was times I would interview people, times I would write documents, but about 25% of the time I had to just sit with headphones on and THINK. It made the company more money doing this action then ten or even a hundred people looking busy.

Don't relate 'busy' to action. Action is the key here. If things are getting done what does it matter how it gets done?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I’ve Got It. You Need It. I’m Selling It!

Doesn't that just say it all?

It's what business should be. You found a product or service to sell. You know the customer that needs it now and you happen to have just what they are looking for. Talk about the perfect storm.

Some people will say, "That's a dream. Most businesses do not run on this concept."

Yes they do. Successful businesses better be following this day in and day out.

Take for example the IPOD. Apple is the only one that has it. You likely (at least think) you need it. And apple is selling it. Samsung is not selling it. A majority of people want an IPOD, not a copy. So you don't really need what they got. Samsung is selling it but likely not for long or at a super reduced price.

The idea is to have a monopoly on a product/service in order to take advantage of GOT/NEED/SELL.

I have often had this debate with people. Why can't I just sell what everyone else is selling? Because once this happens it is considered a commodity and the one with the lowest price is going to win (which is a NO WIN BATTLE IN THE END). If you are new to business you will not likely win in a price war. Why would you want to?

In other words, if you were selling MP3 players would you want to be Samsung or Apple?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Start a Business That Matches Your Lifestyle.

I have recently come to the realization that I hate:

1) Being on call 24 hours a day.
2) Having to deal with petty problems (I love the big ones believe it or not).
3) Giving a client long-term service (I like to do any job in under two weeks or I just get bored).

So what did I do? I started a business that requires me being on call 24/7, I have to deal with broken toilet seats and irritating tenants. The service I give is in one year periods and some renovation projects go into many weeks of arduously long hour days.

Why am I doing this to myself? I hate waking up each day to this. So I have decided to make changes to the business model to adjust to my lifestyle, or else, why would I be in business?

I have changed:

1) My hours to 11-8. These are the hours most people call me anyway. Weekends are mine. I do not work weekends for any reason now. Any major emergency could be dealt with by calling 911. Any minor can wait.
2) I just don't deal with petty problems now. I either assign them to someone that can handle them faster and easier than I can or just refuse to deal with pettiness (such as tenants asking me to clean their kitchen for them; true story!).
3) Give a client a valuable short-term service and charge heavily for long-term service (which I can pass onto someone else). I am a sales/marketing person and can be in and out within a few days and make 10 times more money. Why would I continue to give long-term, capital draining services for next to nothing?

By doing the above I have found something very important to me; I can live life the way I want to and still keep the business I love.

Never Do Nuttin', Always Do Somepin'

In my last post I mentioned the bad times the business is going through due to economic factors. I also mentioned if you do not become aggressive, you will perish. This is perhaps the biggest action I took that could have pulled things out in and by itself. And yes, it's my fav -- marketing!

I began to do what no one else was doing.

History, my two biggest marketing methods are in this order, custom lawn signs and free online classifieds (newspaper ads are expensive and useless and yes I have benchmarked the newspaper ads against online ads).

This year I was not receiving calls. It was so slow I decided to take action and do something no one else thought of. I hand-wrote some property detail signs. Cost, about $1.50 per house (my lawn signs are $25 each). It listed all the information someone would ask about a house on a HUGE sign and posted them in each house.

Then I made some smaller hand-written signs and posted those all over the target area. Cost, about 25 cents each. Just a generic sign. I also posted a list of all my properties everywhere I could find. Stores, posts, wherever. The city took some down but who cares.

I was the only one out there with advertising that was not just a FOR RENT lawn sign. People saw my number all over.

Something magical happened. The signs I had in the two HOT areas started getting calls. I would tell them to have a look at x property, y property, etc.

I then decided to do open houses for the rentals. I would sit at the hottest properties all day and put signs on my truck and lawn to come in. This didn't work all that well but at one point I decided to do something different. I would walk around the general area looking for people and give them a flyer of all the houses. In other words instead of sitting there waiting for people to come to me I went to them. The houses began renting this way and each person I was aggressive with referred me to others as well. Why? Because I was the only person that they could get a hold of to see a place.

In other words, I was the only person out there doing something! I was the only one adjusting with the times.

Can you imagine thousands of places sitting empty and the Landlords are only relying on one or two marketing methods (that are not working this year!)

Find out what no one else is doing. Do it. Do anything and it will work!

Slow Times Require Quick Changes

The economy is tanking everywhere. Real Estate is down to 60 cents on the dollar. Stock Market is shaky. Things are bad and getting worse.

It is hitting my business and once again I have made a mistake that may kill the business.

History, normally I would rent every place I have during the months of June, July and August. The closer it gets to August the quicker the pace. It would get to the point where I would be begging Landlords for more houses to fill. However, this year it was bad. Houses that used to fill up in a day are sitting half empty even after three months. Not good at all!

It got to the point that Landlords were calling me more than perspective tenants loading my voicemail asking me what was wrong. What can I say? I did everything the exact same as last year where I was EXTREMELY successful filling everything. The economy is bad. School attendance is down. Everyone is looking for a deal and holding out for that deal. People are not making as fast a decision as they were last year. Little comfort for a Landlord that is facing a half or even almost fully empty house for the school year.

So I sat down and began to analyze it. What went wrong?

Then it came to me, "I NEVER ADJUSTED WITH THE ECONOMIC CLIMATE. I never took advantage of it.".

More fortunes will be made in the next couple months than all fortunes before it. People that adjust and see the glass half full will benefit. I always remember the saying, "Buy when they cry, sell when they yell." It is so true. Normal people run away when they even hear the fact that things may get bad. Rich people run to the chaos.

Back to my business. Once I realized this I began the changes.

1) I stopped wasting time on actions that where not helping the situation. For instance, I cutout unnecessary services such as staging apartments and focused on making sure they were clean.

2) I stopped wasting time on bargain hunters. They were literally taking up my entire day and in the end I was not making anything from them. I began to tell people in the beginning, the Landlords have discounted the price according to the climate and WILL NOT discount anymore. Most time-wasters would walk and save me hours to deal will REAL customers.

3) I aggressively looked for business and actually was surprised about how effective this was (more on this in a future post). I began handwriting signs, posting them everywhere I possibly could. I would go up and down the street and talk to everyone looking for tenants.

4) I focused on my strongest (and most money making) skill, sales. You can always see when someone wants something. If I didn't see the glow from them, I moved on. If I saw it, I would not negotiate and waste time. Take it or leave it. The price is what it is. And 99% of the time they would take it.

The other thing I know I did wrong was I didn't adjust my moral thoughts on the business. I have always tried to fill places for Landlords. It was how I built the business reputation so quickly. But it was not possible this year to do that because of the climate. However, I knew I would do my best and that's what I could offer them.

What I should have did was taken on 100 times the Landlords I had with the caveat, "I cannot guarantee a full house but I can guarantee you will not be sitting with an empty house like everyone else is."

The perceived service would not have been as high as it was but neither is the ecomony.

Remember fortunes will be made NOW by people that can adjust quickly to changing times, even a change of business morals may be needed to get through it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The $90 Subway Lunch.

We recently spent a life-moment day at Cedar Point. Seven of us. After a full morning of thrills on the Raptor, Top Thrill Dragster and even the high speed horse race ride (yes I admit I rode the kiddie rides) we stopped at Subway to get a quick bite before heading out again and risking throwing it up. There was no line up, which in itself was weird. We ordered three 6" and two foot long Subs, comboed them and went to pay.

It came to over 90 bucks!

I said, "Did I hear that correctly? 90 bucks?"

A couple of subs that normally cost maybe $30 at the MOST came to half the price of an IPOD Nano! Nothing special about them either. Just plain subs. No coupon for a free IPOD shuffle, just some lunch meat and Pepsi. This was enough to bring 2 more people into the park for the day!!!

What was confusing was the menu board. They presented it in such a way that you would NEVER figure out how much you were going to pay until you were at the register -- and by then it was too late. There was three problems with this method of doing business:

1) You are only making customers mad. The girl actually told me almost everyone freaks when they hear their total Sub bill. How are you going to keep customers if they are expecting to pay $30 and it comes to $90. Bad business!

2) There was nothing special about it except they had a Subway dude you can have your pic taken with and the fact you can eat a familiar meal while enjoying your exciting day. They should have at least gave a ticket for a free park souvenir.

3) The menu board does not keep in the tradition of the most successful business lesson: "Remain Consistent". McDonalds serves billions because EVERY McDonalds has the same menu board, etc. People want the same experience, no surprises!

If they would have raised their prices slightly and stayed consistent with the menu board I would not have even thought about it. I mean I love Subway! However, I guarantee I will think twice about buying lunch at a Subway at any special venue now. If it was your business, wouldn't you have thought twice about possibly losing a customer just to gouge them for $60?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Comparing Apples with Oranges

Companies often compare apples with oranges while dealing with competitive issues. Big mistake. Your customers are smarter than you may realize. Do not insult them. Compare apples with apples.

Background: A friend recently told me where to get DSL service for $19/mn which is EXACTLY comparable to the service I am getting from the phone company for over $50/mn. Speed is same, service is same, everything. I've been with the phone company for years and have been relatively happy with it so I entered their chat program to talk to a rep about possibly getting a price match.

Once we got over the identity verifications (which takes longer than a conversation now) she said she could offer a bit faster connection for $40/mn, I have to sign a 1 year contract and pay a $100 fee. OK, so when you break this down, I would be paying the same for a tiny bit more speed (which the modem they gave me 5 years ago will not handle anyway).

So they are trying to compare a $50 orange with the $19 apple instead of a $50 apple with $19 apple.

Why would anyone buy an apple for $50 when they could get that same apple for $19 next door? Is it because they think their apples are better, their store better or because the apple is in a better display? Is it because they have spent 100 years selling apples and know more about apple pricing than you?

Companies have gone out of business making these same assumptions. In fact, the phone company I am referring to had years ago lost over a million customers by merely placing a cap on downloaded bytes. The mailboxes around town were so full of modems being returned to the phone company that I am sure the post-office freaked.

OK, not only are they going to lose me as a long-time loyal paying customer but I will now recommend this same $19 apple to about 100 clients (landlords and tenants). Why? Because the phone company tried to hide the fact they can't sell me their apples for $19 or anything even close to that -- they can only sell me a $50 orange.

Imagine the competition salivating at the phone company's responses to their current customers. If I was them, I would start a campaign and hand out a free apple with each new account, just to stick it to them. Poor large corporation. I think they have created more competing entrepreneurs than any industry.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A-Team 80 Cult Heros or Business Mentors

I love the A-team. They were tops in the 80's when I was a kid. I remember risking parental fury each time I watched it, but I knew someday it would pay off!

Here is a group of dissimilarly skilled people led by a knowledgeable leader that had good intentions in mind. Does this sound like the perfect business or what?

Why is this so important to remember now?

I am once again trying to take on too much of the business. I know others can do it better and I try to rationalize it has to do with money, but people know more than I do and are smarter than me. Do you do the same?

Get over it!

Some of the most successful companies in the world are run by people that simply know how to lead. Nothing else.

But what is leadership?

I remember once telling a vice president that leadership is when you can get someone to follow you despite everything they personally know about you. In other words, would you follow this guy/gal to death?

I NEVER in a million years thought I would become that person. But I am convinced now, I have become that person. Sounds arrogant but that is what you need. Hannibal was arrogant, confident, knew his sh!t and was not afraid to make mistakes. All qualities of a leader.

However, the most important quality he had was his ability to turn over the "responsibility" to those he led.

OK, I am an 80's TV junkie but look where it got me!

To Boldy Go Where No Marketing Has Gone Before

I am diabetic type I (insulin dependant) and have been so for 15 years. Each day I am supposed to use a meter to measure my blood sugar and record it into a "log book". The doctor then uses the book to determine my progress or to adjust the medication.

The nurse recently gave me a couple new free log books. The meter companies give them away like candy (ok sugar-free candy).

Imagine my surprise when I begin using it and every few pages there is an ad for one diabetic product or another. Coupons are even included which I would actually use. Absolutely brilliant marketing. Commercials have reached my LOG BOOK!


Where else are you going to be able to get your AD before the eyes of 100% of your target market; diabetics?

If the companies would have put ads in a magazine, the average of diabetics that would see it would be exactly the national average of diabetics; about 7% of the population.

Man if I would have thought of that I would be charging these companies a fortune to advertise because now 100% of their advertising dollars are used to reach 100% of their target market. Such a deal!

It is exactly like putting an ad for color prints inbetween shots on a digital camera. Or think of a printer that printed a coupon for 1/2 off your next ink cartridge at Staples at the end of the cartridge. Wow, the possibilites are endless.

As I always say, know they customer to the point of almost knowing their name. Then only advertise to them; not the rest of the world.

For more information on marketing, check out this great site:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Whatever the Mind of Man Can Conceive...

When I first got my last job I was so excited. I used to ride the train with a good friend of mine and he asked me one day, "How is it going at the new job?"

I said, "Great! I am getting paid to think".

He says, "That's funny, I get paid NOT to think!"

Three years after he said it, I can see why he said it.

Businesses that are growing require a huge inflow of ideas to turn to cash. It is a SIMPLE process. Think of good ideas based-off business experience and turn it into cash as fast as you can. Refine the idea. Do it over and over and over. It's the nature of business.

However, once a business matures, the "ideas to cash" process turns to these policies or rules instead:

1) Do what you are told. We are the experts and we didn't think of it, so how could you have. (untrained, inexperienced managers stating this)
2) If you think of ideas to improve profits, write them down and put them in the suggestion box (in other words, trash!).
3) Ideas cost too much to implement. (when, in fact, they cost too much to not implement.)
4) We need to take that idea through the RFQ, RFI, blah blah process to determine its advantage to the company's bottom line. (in other words, bury it in paperwork).

The basis of Napoleon Hill's book "Think and Grow Rich" is "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

Always encourage these ideas to flow from your employees, friends and family and develop them FAST! Don't turn this money generating machine (the human mind) into, well, a robot.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Scare Yourself To Riches

I'm reading a book called, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. I'll cover many points from this book in the future but the one that stands out the most is the ability to push your comfort-zone everyday. In other words, do something daily that you fear doing.

Timothy Ferriss gives the example of asking a member of the opposite sex for their phone number. For me it is dealing with difficult customer interactions. It's taking every call even though I know some will lead to my blood pressure rising. It's also not being mister nice guy.

Why does he suggest doing these things that make you uncomfortable? Because it puts you in a catagory that 99% of the population is not in - success or the ability to achieve great things JUST BECAUSE YOU TRIED!

I will give you an example. Who do you think is going to be more successful and richer: a saleman that is not afraid to knock on any door in the city or someone selling ads on their blog that has never talked to a single person or had face time with one customer?

Both can be successful but the second is not pushing their fear limits daily. It is too comfortable.

There is nothing wrong with comfort but the problem with it is you are competing with 98 other comfortable people for that same dollar. Where if you were pushing the limits each time you interact with someone, there is likely NO ONE TO COMPETE AGAINST.

People are asking me if x business would be successful. I now ask, "Does it scare you to do it?"

If so, get ready for the riches.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lost Billions

I was reflecting on the company I used to work for and had a thought...Their business inexperience cost billions in lost knowledge.

The company is composed of about 5000 offices all over the world and I worked at the head office for Canada, which employed approximately 200 people before I left. It had went through 10 or so years of extreme growth and never documented one successful action. It was my job to interview employees about their day to day business processes.

Some of the questions I would ask were, "Why do you do it that way? Is there a better way to do it? Faster? Uses less time, paper, etc."

Deer in the headlights look, ALWAYS!

Once you snapped your fingers they would usually answer, "Well we have always done it that way and I was told to do it that way. Yes there is better ways to do it but we are only trained and ordered to do it this way."

Upon investigation (I'm a good detective that always asks WHY IS IT DONE THAT WAY?) I find out that when the company was composed of 5 people or so, the now manager of a huge department set it up that way just to cope with the growth.

In other words, it was the only solution they could come up with on the fly...and this inefficient, expensive method of handling business remains to this day -- only repeated thousands of times per day instead of a few.

So the difficulty now is, the person that invented this method is now in charge! She insists it only be done that way and refuses all suggestions to do it better/faster/cheaper.

After years of interviews, it just got to be ridiculous. Here was a company that had 200 thinking employees, that worked with a completely out-of-date system, that could have designed a system that was 90% more efficient being told to forget about thinking about improvements and certainly DO NOT change things.

The most amazing part is, when I would interview the person that actually designed the system in the first place, they had no idea why they did it that way. They didn't know if it was a legal (regulatory) issue, head-office issue or it was the only colour paper they had at their desk that day.

One instance is they have 2 to 3 people photocopying papers ALL DAY just to have a record. Day after day for over 10 years. Imagine the costs! When I researched it, this entire action was not necessary, it was merely someones miss-interpretation of a legal recommendation. And even after they know this fact, it still goes on just because that's the way we do it, so it must be right.

Bottom line is, if the company would have encouraged improvements, documented them and quickly trained others on it, it would have made/saved them BILLIONS across 5000 offices.

How does this apply to my business? I document my system. I document the policies and why they were made. I look for improvements. I am not going to lose the knowledge and thus future billions the way they did.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Some Good Articles About Business Stages

Charting Your Business Timeline by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Day of Rest

Even the worst workaholic requires a rest now and then. Why? It recharges your batteries.

I used to train for bike races all year round until someone told me I needed a rest now and then. I said, if I rest, I get out of the groove. They said, if you don't rest you are not getting 1/2 the benefit of training, which is recovery. Operating on GO GO GO is actually very damaging to your body AND mind. I remember I used to use the mantra, "Time to Rest When Your Dead" whenever I would feel like stopping. Big mistake. Without the recovery you have no time to rebuild for the next battle and may just end up dead.

This morning I woke up with VERY sore hands and knees from a few days of 16 hour renovations. I was going to work for a few hours to get caught up but ended up kicking back watching TV and sitting outside in my lovely yard.

Man, talk about relief. I needed it, I know I needed it and finally didn't feel the guilt of not working 100% of the time.

So rememeber, rest and reflect now and then or go down in flames.

Business Board

I can highly recommend the following webboard to help you get advice and answers to your questions:

Richdad Community.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Learn from Everyone

I have three business mentors right now and they likely don't even know the lessons they are teaching me.

1) Landlord that is younger than me. When I met this guy I was very cocky (still am). He taught me lessons about renovations I had no idea about. Since then these lessons have saved the business thousands. I have become better at mudding drywall despite 20 years experience (which is an art, not something learned)! He is also teaching me how to read perspective tenants. Stuff I thought I knew but actually didn't.

2) Uncle. My father died when I was 8 and my aunt's husband took on the job of keeping my 5 brothers and sister in weekend kid activities. Sledding, fishing, just silly stuff but so important to someone without a father. He has since taken over the MANAGER part of the business. Things get done, they get done fast and we make money. He does this all while working a full-time demanding job.

3) Kid across the street. Here is a guy that is a natural salesperson helping me do renos. The other talent he has is collections. He doesn't take any sh!t. He insists people pay me so I can pay him and he is happy with that.

Learn from any source you can. If business is always in your subconscious mind, people will turn over their experience in little understood ways.

Forcing People to Keep Their Word.

Rule 1. Be ethical in business and expect others to be ethical with you.

I've had tenants try to give me literally a week's notice they were backing out of a lease. What to do? I can advise Landlords to say no but they are keeping the tenants deposit. I can advise them to say ok but you have to help find someone to replace you or we will sue. Who are they going to find but a friend that might do the same thing -- or worse!

Maybe its best to stop putting negative into a negative situation and begin from scratch.

Rule 2. Make people responsible for their promises.

You have been straight with them. Make them be straight with you.

I think the best thing to do is see what went wrong. All my 12 month leases have cut out 2 to 4 months early (and don't have any remorse), yet a few 8 month lease tenants are renewing for 4 months. Solution? Draw a policy and enforce it. Also let the tenants know this is not how they should be beginning their lives (student tenants). Have a lawyer send them a letter informing them that if the Landlord loses costs, they are going to sue them for those costs and I personally will be showing up in court to defend the Landlord. A lease is a contract, an agreement with a Landlord and the person they are letting occupy their land, their domain. If you didn't intend to keep your word, you should not have signed it.

Rule 3. Don't back down.

The other party (in my case tenant) will start to spew BS facts. I can tell you from experience they are lying and bluffing. Remember you are the one in the right because you were honest with them in the beginning and all your dealings with them. FORCE THEM TO DO THE SAME!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Business is Not for Sissies

I have come to the realization why people avoid beginning their own business...they don't have the stomach for what is ahead of them. Our business has gone through major hard lessons cycles which are as follows:

1) Beginning Business. Going to find clients. Ending up taking whatever comes along.
Pretty simple. No hassles. Just not the vision I had.
2) Getting clients that want a deal. Ok, I have a bit of savings to hold out. It will be worth the experience.
3) Experiencing the fact that they gave you the work because it was a HUGE problem (either financially, legally, morally, time wise.) Fine, that's what I get paid to do.
4) Not getting paid for what I did. Up my services by hiring people.
5) People are not showing up to work. No reliable workers, just everyone with their hand out. Ok, do the work myself until someone comes along.
6)Working 16 hour days not getting paid. Ok, take on work that pays and somehow keep things going. Almost broke.
7) Broke. Finally say thats enough.


8) Decide to change things. Dump non-paying clients despite everything (them giving you referrals or their complaints.)
9) Collect every dime owed you by whatever means.
10) This one actually surprised me but I all the sudden was BROKE and had massive amounts of people pissed at me.

I had did everything correctly according to the book and was not giving up. I don't have the choice of giving up.

11) Expand beyond your capabilities. Take on guys that see the possibilities of your business and hire them on pro-bono. Go get new good clients. Insist on your terms.

12) Get to your last dollar. Spend it on the business without hesitation. Money now coming in from collections. It pays to starve now and then!

13) Service the hell out of your new clients. GROW GROW despite people being pissed at you or a zero balance at the bank or equipment breakdowns.

You now have the "business pepto bismol" to survive any stomach aches.

Things Are Moving Once We Addressed PAIN!

Well once we dumped the old weight, we've signed on several new clients these few days. They are paying right after the completion of each job and cash is starting to flow again. There are 5 requests for QUOTES since then as well.

As the front man, I've gotten to the point where I am saying, "Hi, I'm John with Spruce It Up. What's your pain. How can I take it away?"

By starting out on this basis, they are then pretty well willing to pay anything once they see we can take their pain away, QUICKLY! And they are smiling once the pain is gone.

Solve those pains and make millions.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Business is Business (Not Personal) Duh!

Over the past week my business has finally become its own self. No longer is it J.J.A. doing business as Spruce It Up Home Services, its now ALIVE! ALIVE!

What exactly does that mean?

It means my people are running things. They are insisting on each person doing their part and me doing my part (build the biz, or as one guy says, being the front man).

It also means I do not think in personal terms anymore. No more, "Can you do me a favor? Can you give me a deal? Can you wait another week for payment?"

"'I' can't do anything for you. Are you asking the business to extend you credit or reduce its rates or change what brought it to life?" Nope. The business will not survive with those practices.

I've stopped work on my largest client's personal properties....not because of person conflict but purely from a business standpoint.

Since the business has be SHOCKED (and I mean literally shocked!) to life, and I have dumped the crap, it is off and running with twice as many contracts and the potential for 5 times more money than previous contracts. The business has the support team to do anything and they are raring to go show this city what they can do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Books I Can't Do Without!

I will update this on a regular basis. These are not books I promote just to make a couple bucks but things I read over and over to gain an understanding of business and success.

Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude

I literally read this book everyday. It is the ULTIMATE BUSINESS ATTITUDE BOOK. Napoleon Hill is a timeless business writer.

Think and Grow Rich

The original GET RICH book. I cannot say enough about this 71 year old book. Mr. Hill interviews so many millionaires and told us about it that I don't know how everyone is not RICH!

Monopoly Rules: How to Find, Capture, and Control the Most Lucrative Markets in Any Business

If you want to know how to KILL YOUR COMPETITION, check this book out. A Monopoly is not always a bad thing, just a guaranteed profitable practice.

Copy This!: How We Built Kinko's from a 10' X 10' Copy Stand into a Two Billion Dollar Business

You have to search for it, but the jems that make business billions are there.

The E Myth Revisited

Build a business system and make your millions -- just like McDonalds or Sarah with her pie shop.

Rich Dad Poor Dad

This is the book that got me to quit my high paying job and start to focus on wealth. Be warned that if you read it and are an employee, you may quit the next day.

Want to know how to build a multimillion dollar online business? It's just how you would build any business. This book taught me about addressing pain and marketing to only the people with the pain.

Again, Cure People's Pain and Be Rich!

I finally found a doctor after 12 months of waiting in my new/old city. As I was sitting in the waiting room I began to think, HERE IS THE PERFECT BUSINESS!

There was about 20 people waiting, each with a specific pain the Doctor would presumably take away. I waited about 45 minutes in the first room, peed in a cup and waited another 45 minutes in another room (pretty short wait time actually). By the time the nurse took my weight, asked me 50 questions and the 15 minutes I actually saw the doctor, it was a 2 1/2 hours later. This was to tell me I had to go have tests (another wait) and come see him in 1 week for the results (and wait 2 1/2 more hours).

Talk about a business that solves people's pain.

Where else can you get people to sit and wait to see you for 2 1/2 hours?

Find that corollary in your business and you will be RICH! I mean, look at the typical Doctor bill. Can you charge that much to take away a customer's pain?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dog Marketing

I don't have a fenced yard and need to sit outside with my dog while she does her business. When I am patiently waiting, my mind typically goes to business. Today, I thought that my dog is the perfect example of a customer and how you have to market to them.

When she goes out she looks around, listens and sniffs the air. "Anything different than last time I came out?" If there is not, she goes on her way silently. However, if there is the least bit of difference out side, a ball out of place, a sound 1/2 mile away that is not normal, she tells me...loudly!

This is EXACTLY how a customer acts. They are oblivious to the normal climate or landscape. They pass the same billboard 50 times in a month without even thinking.

But when you make that change in their environment, wow! Their eyes pop right to it and they want to know what is different. Bark! Bark!

In that very small amount of time, you have the ability to grab their attention and shift it to your business.

So I thought, what if you have an ad that was always changing. Never the same. This will not work. Because the change will then become normal to your customer and they will not even look after the first few changes.

They say people have to see something about 3 times before the marketing works.

My idea of perfect marketing is changing something in EVERYONE'S environment, leave it there for a couple weeks, then do something totally different. For example, maybe one day you put large glowing signs all over a targetted neighborhood and the next time, send flyers that are printing on circular paper. Anything that is not only different from what you did last time but different from what everyone else is doing. That way you will get a double BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK! then BUY!

Be the Good Cop AND Bad Cop...or go broke.

I have been having trouble collecting three very large accounts from clients that are related to each other. My friend has always played the bad cop in our business and I just go out and build the business. However, I have come to the conclusion, if I am not good cop AND bad cop at the same time, I am NEVER going to make the next two months. It pretty well comes to this...if someone owes you money...DON'T BE THE NICE GUY/GAL. If you get into this habit, your cashflow will crash and you'll be broke!

The expensive lessons I have learned are as follows:

1) Don't let unscrupulous people take advantage of the fact you are just beginning in business. They know you are offering a great service at a great price so make them pay like everyone else, or find someone else. It is better to go without a few customers than have them owing you a ton of money.

2) Get a deposit and contract up front. Do not start any work until the check clears. You can usually tell the ones that will end up not paying by the rush they are placing on you.

3) If someone doesn't pay, SUE THEM! Do it now! Don't wait as there are limitation on certain liens and so on.

Always keep in mind, you are doing good work for a good price and in order to keep doing that, don't always be NICE! Fire your bad clients immediately to make way for the millions that will come to you once that negative force is off your business.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Perfect Marketing

I saw this commercial recently and was blown away. It has so many levels to its brilliance. First, you would think Cadillac was targeting independent "sex in the city" type woman. Not so. They are targeting men that want these types of women and will go buy a Cadillac to get those women. Perfect marketing (target your known buyer with emotion).

Check out Modernista's other videos as well. GM dumped their Top Ad Guy for this place...and rightly so.

I will go into marketing through a large part of this blog and its importance to YOUR business.

Lessons After One Year in Business.

One year in business and here are the prevalent problems and lessons I’ve learned (the hard way!)


#1 Pain: Collecting money owed on time. Cashflow!

I have $6,500 owed that may end up putting me out of business (have to go to work to pay that money off!).

Solution: Ongoing problem but I will not take on work without deposit and iron clad service contract now. Have lawyer on stand-by for amounts owed. I tend to be a nice guy but have become disabused of anyone that owes me money – and make this clear to them!

#2 Pain: Hard to hire reliable people.

Solution: Get people to see the potential of this business and get them to work on spec (I get paid, you get paid (see problem #1) AND get a share of the pie). If someone isn’t willing to put their neck on the line like you, why work with them?

#3 Pain: Losing my FOCUS.

I took on work that was not very profitable just to pay immediate bills and recently found out I may have lost ½ my yearly income because I was distracted.

Solution: As “republican” as it sounds, I ask myself when doing ANYTHING, is this putting money into my pocket or taking it out. If putting it in, when? I then spend 80% of the day on that and 10% on stuff not making money but still necessary, and 10% on future endeavors that will put big bucks in pocket. I am a futurist and can spend 100% on future pipe-dream endeavors instead of focusing on the bottom line.


#1 Valuable Lesson: Marketing. Give people an aspirin to their worst headaches, not just solutions to their problems.

Explanation: What sells more? Vitamins or Viagra? Solve a person’s WORST PAIN, find a way to profit from it and you are guaranteed millions. Talk to people about their worst pains every day. I can literally start 20 businesses in a depressed economy just by listening to people’s most burning pains.

As an example, I recently talked to a guy that owns a chain of local pizza stores. He had a HUGE pain. The government was forcing him out of his most profitable locations in order to run a highway through them. I thought to myself, this is one guy that needs my rental agent services BAD. There are about 1000 businesses that will be going through the same pain right along this 3 mile stretch. WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY all based off a 5 minute talk with the pizza guy!

#2 Valuable Lesson: Making money from the aspirin.

Explanation: When starting out, it’s good to give people a deal but remember you are taking their pain away and if they don’t want to pay a reasonable price, someone else with a worse headache will! It takes experience (maybe about 1 year) in order to gain the confidence and guts to say either NO to a potential customer or “I want more money”. I’ve turned down HUGE contracts because I knew I wouldn’t make any money and more importantly it would be taking time away from the contracts that would make me tons of money with very little effort.

#3 Valuable Lesson: Finding the Magic.

Explanation: One of my business partners tells me, “It was absolutely magical watching you begin this business. You could do no wrong.”

But I did! I ignored the magic.

Admit to yourself what that magic is and DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYONE that you should be doing something else. Not even your logical self. Go on results and listen to your gut.


Well, after year one, I am just about breaking-even so the small business statistics are correct. I made one MAJOR mistake in January by taking on renovations work just to pay the bills at the end of the month. My management part of the business was going thru a seasonal hyper-growth period AND I MISSED IT because I had to finish reno jobs. I focused on some really bad unrealistic clients that pretty well cost me $10,000 directly while I could have been off making $20 to $30K in Jan and Feb.

My greatest “wins” have been in Marketing. I can pretty well sum up a successful business concept in one sentence. “Provide enough people with the aspirin to their worst headaches that no one else is providing AND make huge profits doing so.” If a business does not meet this criteria, I can almost guaranty it is out of business when the capital dries up. When I tell my target audience the pain I can take away, they are practically ripping money out of their pockets. I just have to work the profit part more now. I know I have the experience now to do this after this year.


(Note: Notice I said “experience”. I read books all the time but the most valuable lessons and wins come from going out there and doing it. DO IT NOW! is the most powerful 3 words ever.)

Don't become just another failed business.

I've started this blog to help teach anyone how to begin a business, grow that business and succeed over time. Nine of Ten businesses will fail within 5 years. You will know why after reading my posts and what to do to avoid becoming a statistic.