Monthly Archive for September, 2012

Learn how to leverage technology

Henry Ford is generally credited with being the creator of the assembly line. To meet the demand for his Model T automobiles, Mr. Ford knew that just hiring more people wouldn’t be enough to mount the challenge of building Ford Motor Company, it would take technology.

His technology was crude by modern standards, but it did what technology does: leverage the productivity of human beings. During the year Ford’s assembly line was first put in service, he wasn’t just using technology, he was creating it. He was also turning 50.

The list of technology options is long and growing and today is available in features-rich products to support and improve virtually every business task. How much are you adopting technology to help you leverage the humans in your organization?

Yes, some employees don’t want to embrace technology because they think they’re too old, or have gotten too far behind the curve. Hogwash! There is so much point-and-click technological capability these days that you can ramp up on any learning curve within a matter of days, if not hours. And besides, rapid changes in technology means you can catch up with anyone by being prepared to fully adopt the next generation of capability, that’s usually never more than 90 days away. You can literally go from being a technology illiterate to being an application expert within weeks. But you do have to take that first step.

The great Roman statesman, Cato (234-149 BC) began studying Greek at the age of 80. When asked why he would contemplate such an undertaking at such an advanced age, he replied, “This is the youngest age I have left.”

Regardless of your age or level of technological proficiency, learn how to leverage technology. No excuses! Remember, it’s the youngest age you have left.

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Take this week’s poll HERE!

Are you managing the velocity of change?

And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on. “And When I Die,” by Laura Nyro, performed by Blood, Sweat & Tears.

As we know, change has been the one constant of existence on planet Earth. Each generation gives way to the next, so that over time fire became electricity and the wheel morphed into a computer.

For most of the history of the marketplace, change progressed at a pace slow enough to allow the creator of a model – a product, strategy, skill, etc. – to make a living off of it for a lifetime, possibly even passing that model on to his children. But within the past century this paradigm began to shift.

During the second half of the 20th century, the life expectancy of a typical model generation was compressed into a calendar year. So while you were delivering the current year’s model to customers, you had to simultaneously create and prepare next year’s model to be ready to launch January 1.

Since 1995, an unprecedented confluence of innovations has further compressed the time between model generations, resulting in anxiety and frustration for any business in love with its model. Not because of change itself, but rather the almost exponential increase in the velocity of change. Indeed, the life of a model that not so long ago would have been a calendar year is now measured in terms of an Internet year, which is 90 days.

The energy source propelling the increased velocity of marketplace change is innovations, but these are merely new tools. The manifestation of this increased velocity is new customer expectations. The good news is you can avoid anxiety, frustration – and failure – by asking customers these five questions – every day:

  1. What do you want?
  2. How do you want me to tell you about it?
  3. How will you use it?
  4. When do you want it?
  5. How do you want it delivered?

Then do what your customers tell you.

The answer to these questions will provide all the information you need about current and future products, service and technology, including your social media and mobile strategy. And then you’ll be able to sing these new lyrics without any blood, sweat or tears:

And when our model dies, and when it’s gone, we’ll produce a new model in this world to carry on, to carry on.

Customers will tell you their changing expectations – let them.

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Take this week’s poll HERE!

Small Business Advocate Poll: Political conventions and dinosaurs

The Question:
Did the political conventions impact your voting plans?

4% - My mind was not changed. I’m still voting for Obama/Biden.

76%- My mind was not changed. I’m still voting for Romney/Ryan.

2% - My mind was changed. I’m now voting for Obama/Biden.

2% - My mind was changed. I’m now voting for Romney/Ryan.

16% - I still haven’t decided.

My Comments
In two previous polls, we wanted to gauge your interest with regard to political conventions and, as you know, we reported those responses - with my commentary - at the end of each convention.

For our most recent poll - post-conventions - we wanted to know how successful you thought they were, so we asked: “Did the political conventions impact your voting plans?” Here’s what you said:

Four percent of our sample said “My mind was not changed. I’m still voting for Obama/Biden, compared to 76% who said they remained committed to Romney/Ryan.

In the mind-changing category, 2% for each party said their minds had been changed by the conventions. And finally, those reporting they are still undecided - arguably the most powerful political influencers in America - came in at 16%.

So here’s what I’m getting from the past three weeks of poll responses:

  • Small business owners are more likely to be Republicans than Democrats.
  • Both parties had very little success in changing minds.
  • There are still - incredibly - a lot of people who haven’t made up their minds about who they will vote for.
  • National conventions are experiencing the same fate as the dinosaurs.

Thanks for participating in our polls, especially these associated with the election cycle in progress. Whether we like it or not, politics impacts our businesses and, as owners, we must engage in the debate and the process. Otherwise, we will be relegated to taking what politicians - and special interest groups - give us, making the assumption that we don’t care.

Small business owners, let’s begin the process of taking back our country and reinstalling Main Street values of authenticity, intellectual honesty, accountability, market-based solutions and reverence for the U.S. Constitution.


Bill Brandt

Rich Galen

On my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the impact of the 2012 political conventions and their validity in the future with Bill BrandtPresident and CEO of Development Specialists, Inc. and Democrat pundit, and Rich Galen, publisher of and Republican operative. Click on on the links below to download or listen.

Will political conventions be part of our political future? with Bill Brandt

Who won the battle of the conventions? with Rich Galen

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

What is the definition of entrepreneur?

One of the most interesting debates in the past decade is around the definition of an entrepreneur.

Some experts take a very narrow position by saying an entrepreneur is only someone whose business idea can scale to national reach, like the founders of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. Others cast a much wider net to include anyone who takes a business risk.

Here is my very broad definition: An entrepreneur attempts to create a new product, service or solution while accepting responsibility for the results.

Notice this definition doesn’t refer to profit or equity or even business. But it does infer what I consider the following critical elements of entrepreneurship, including a relationship with the abiding twins of any entrepreneurial endeavor – success and failure.

Ownership: Whether in the literal equity sense, as in business ownership, or an entrepreneurial employee who takes initiative and assumes ownership of the performance of a team or project, entrepreneurship does not happen unless someone takes ownership of execution and results.

Courage: This is the backbone of entrepreneurial behavior because the stakes are always high. Failure can manifest in many forms, including financial loss, professional setbacks and personal embarrassment. Nothing entrepreneurial happens until conviction raises the level of courage above the fear of failure.

Curiosity: Curiosity is the face of entrepreneurship because the eyes see what isn’t there, the ears hear sounds others miss, the nose smells opportunity, and the mouth asks “What if?” There are many business owners who are not curious, but there are no entrepreneurs who aren’t driven by curiosity.

Vision: A futurist is someone who makes a living connecting the dots into a picture before it is evident to others. Entrepreneurs are futurists when they envision an opportunity or solution associated with their industry, discipline or assignment.

Risk: Successful entrepreneurs are not foolhardy; they gauge their risk tolerance based on the potential emotional, professional and financial costs. Entrepreneurs take risks knowing that whether they succeed or fail, they will learn something useful.

Redemption: Plans often don’t go as envisioned. Successfully resetting and refocusing – for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial employees – requires an answer to the most powerful question in the quest for entrepreneurial excellence: “What did we learn?”

The 21st century needs all kinds of entrepreneurs.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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Take this week’s poll HERE!

“Top Ten List of things I believe to be true about the global war with radical Islamic terrorists”

Sometime after the attacks of September 11, 2001, I created what I titled the “Top Ten List of things I believe to be true about the global war with radical Islam,” and those states that support and encourage them. Sadly, this list is still valid today, especially after recent events in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. Here is my Top 10 List:

Number 10. Regardless of where they live on planet Earth, all people who are free – or who want to be – are in a global war against radical Islam.

Number 9. The war on terror has no front lines, rear areas, demilitarized zones or safe harbors.

Number 8. Islamic terrorists kill innocent people because they hate Jews, Americans and other “non-believers” more than they love their own children.

Number 7. The war on terror is not about oil or Israel; it’s about global domination by radical Islam, which wants to take civilization back to the first millennium A.D.

Number 6. Terrorism is very efficient. Even failed terrorist acts are successful because they almost always have the effect of limits being imposed on free societies, like having our shoes and liquids screened every time we board a plane, and being groped by the TSA as if the 4th Amendment wasn’t part of the Constitution.

Number 5. For many years, mistakes have been made in dealing with terrorists by many governments and their leaders; more mistakes will be made. Our enemies are the terrorists, not those who make mistakes trying to fight them.

Number 4. Success in the war against radical Islam will not come to the naive, the passive or the squeamish. History has shown that appeasement does not work when dealing with evil. Islamic terrorists will never employ or respond to diplomacy or negotiations; they will kill and create chaos until they win or we kill them.

Number 3. By themselves, terrorists cannot defeat us; they can only create conditions that diminish our resolve and cause us to defeat ourselves.

Number 2. Today, the future of the free world is at stake because of the stated goals and determination of radical Islam.

Number 1. It is absolutely possible that we could lose the war against radical Islam.

In 1998 I started saying that the 21st century would be the century of the entrepreneur; where small businesses around the globe would leverage liberty and free markets to collectively lead the world with their contribution. I still believe that.

But unfortunately, simultaneous with making the world a better place through our efforts in the marketplace, we also have to do whatever is necessary to prevent the 21st century from becoming the century of radical Islam.

Finally, to paraphrase the almost 300-year-old wisdom of Edmund Burke, the only way for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.


On September 11 I talked with Janice Kephart, an internationally recognized border and ID security expert and counsel to the 9/11 Commission, about the World Trade Center attacks and our current safety from terrorists. Everyone should hear what she has to say - click here to listen or download.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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Take this week’s poll HERE!

“Follow me home” – a gift from customers

First, let’s establish two maxims: one classic, one new.

Classic: The cardinal rule of customer acquisition – it’s not your customer’s job to keep your business top-of-mind, it’s yours.

New: Your website is becoming less of a destination and more of a distribution center – develop a strategy that doesn’t depend upon prospects and customers returning to your homepage.

Every business owner knows it’s easier to keep a customer than find a new one. But with all of the online options and commercial clutter, keeping their attention is getting harder.

The good news is for every example of how technology makes business more complicated, there is a corresponding tool or application that increases efficiency and productivity.

The best example for how to stay on the radar screen of people who already know you – users, prospects and customers – is to practice what I call the “Follow me home” strategy.

Once someone determines they like your business, they’re increasingly willing to give permission for you to “Follow me home” with digital information and content, by email (newsletters), texting (updates), social media (useful content), etc.

“Follow me home” supports three critical elements in 21st century customer relationships.

Emotional: At the heart of “Follow me home” is trust that a business won’t abuse this privilege. This is a gift – value, protect and perform on this.

Practical: “Follow me home” conveys that you understand people have other options, are very busy and want help staying connected.

Technical: Elements on your website that make “Follow me home” easy (“Subscribe to our free newsletter”, “Follow us on Twitter, etc.), score the online hat trick: values, thought-leadership and technical capability.

“Follow me home” is good for your business in four ways:

  1. You’ve been invited to connect with regular, useful content and appropriate marketing messages.
  2. Since it’s a natural law that a prospect has to see several impressions before converting to a customer, “Follow me home” becomes an effective and efficient conversion practice.
  3. “Follow me home” is one of the best ways a user pre-qualifies themselves as a prospect.
  4. New technologies make delivering on “Follow me home” easier than ever.

Make it easy for users, prospects and customers to give you permission to, “Follow me home.”

“Follow me home” is a buying signal waiting to happen. Are you listening?


I have written and talked extensively on “Follow me home” and other perspectives in The Age of the Customer. Click here to listen, read or watch.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

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