Monthly Archive for November, 2015

Beware of the personal red herring

English foxhunters once dragged a red herring in front of their hounds to distract them from the scent of the little furry guy. In time, this practice produced the metaphorical “red herring,” which is an attempt to win an argument by diverting attention from the real issue.

Introducing a red herring in a negotiation can be a handy defensive tactic. But sometimes we use personal red herrings, which is essentially when we lie to ourselves. It’s one thing to use red herrings as a communication tactic, but when we use them on ourselves, it’s unproductive at best and destructive at worst.

Shakespeare addressed this issue in perhaps his most famous play: Act I, Scene III, of Hamlet, Polonius said to his son, Laertes: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

If you can’t be true to yourself, you can’t be true to your dream. And a false dream is an entrepreneurial atomic meltdown waiting to happen.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge is knowing when to continue to keep believing and when to move on. And the dilemma on these horns could range from a small piece of your plan all the way to the actual validity of your vision and viability of your business model.

One of my mentors taught me how to face a “go—no go” decision by asking this question: “Do you have a fighting chance or just a chance to fight?” The key to success in business, and indeed in life, may be as simple as divining the answer to that question.

One way to tell if you’re dragging a stinking fish across the trail of your own dream is by doing something another mentor taught me: checking your position.Here are three examples:

1. Have you conducted enough due diligence to find out if your plan has a chance of success? Just telling yourself things will work out is a red herring.

2. Is your activity resulting in ANY success? If nothing is working, convincing yourself that you just need to work harder may be masking reality.

3. Are your assumptions performing? If you’re only consuming resources without creating opportunity, you must ask yourself: Am I on the wrong trail, or the wrong journey?

When even small successes can be found mixed in with the failures, you may have a vision merely in need of adjustments and worthy of extra effort. But in order to evaluate all of this, small business owners need all the facts they can get their hands on. And they need the truth from all parties — especially from themselves.

Use red herrings for foxhunting and negotiating, not on yourself.

Write this on a rock … This above all: to thine own self be true.

POLL RESULTS: If you watched the last GOP debate, what did you think about how CNBC moderated it?

The Question:

If you watched the last GOP debate, what did you think about how CNBC moderated it?

0% - I thought CNBC handled the debate just right.
79% - A profound demonstration of liberal media bias against Republicans.
10% - Some questions were inappropriate, but overall it was handled well.
11% - Didn’t watch.

Jim’s Comments:
Not surprised that John Harwood was so snarky toward the Republican candidates in the CNBC debate. And not surprised Becky Quick and Carl Quintanilla looked like lightweights. But was surprised CNBC didn’t rise above the slant of their mothership, NBC, and do the job they were supposed to do: moderate a debate about the economic positions of the candidates.
If eight-of-ten of our respondents saw the blatant bias, so did millions of viewers. In their attempt to diminish the stature of the Republicans, the moderators revealed the pervasive mainstream media bias and how it often manifests as small and unprofessional behavior.
And talk about irony. CNBC’s moderating performance was so bad, it actually helped the Republicans.
Thanks for playing along. Please participate in this week’s poll below.

How can you make a difference?

Even in America, the land of plenty, there are so many people who need food, shelter, a helping hand, and a kind word.  It’s true, the safety net created by public and private organizations is multi-layered and highly efficient, but it is, after all, a net not a pillow.  Nets have holes.
Looking at the many unmet needs it’s easy to be intimidated by the scale and we feel justified in our indifference because, “Hey, I pay my taxes and contribute to charities, don’t I?  What more can I do, right?  I’m just one person.”
Here is a condensed version of a one of my favorite stories, which was created my friend and favorite futurist, Joel Barker, who was inspired by Loren Eiselely’s book 


A man was walking on a familiar stretch of beach one morning after a storm. Up ahead he could see a stranger coming toward him.  The stranger was continually stooping over, picking up something and tossing it in the ocean.  Finally, the man could see that the stranger was throwing into the ocean some of the thousands of tiny starfish the storm had washed up on the beach overnight. As the two men drew near and exchanged greetings, the man commended the stranger for his efforts, but also commented on the futility of such a task. “There must be hundreds of thousands of starfish on this beach. How could one person possibly make a difference?” Picking up another tiny starfish and tossing it back into the ocean, the stranger answered, “Made a difference to that one, didn’t I?!”
Here’s a pledge I will make to you and ask you to consider making:  As I race through my hectic, self-important life, at least once a day I will try to make a difference in another person’s life.
Could be as simple as holding a door, patting a back, giving a compliment, noticing a frown. Or perhaps something a little more involved like checking on someone with a call or visit, creating an opportunity, providing a meal, (your idea here).
With a world full of unmet needs, at the end of the day at least we can say, “Made a difference to that one, didn’t I?!”

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

On Veteran’s Day, let’s recognize all who served

Veterans Day has its origins in Armistice Day, which was first acknowledged by President Wilson in 1919. The first anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles took place “in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Congress made Armistice Day a national holiday on November 11, 1938.

Alvin King, a small business owner in Emporia, Kansas, had a problem with Armistice Day. Al was so moved by the death of his nephew, John E. Cooper, who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, during World War II that he, along with the Emporia Chamber of Commerce, started a movement to rename and redefine Armistice Day as Veterans Day. His goal was to expand the recognition beyond those who served in WWI. The idea caught on and President Eisenhower made Veterans Day official in 1954.

But who should be recognized on Veterans Day? If you’re looking for the definition of a military veteran, good luck. There are several variations on that theme, since the veteran universe is primarily associated with financial benefits. Consequently, the government has a lot at stake in the official definition.

The most common technical definition of a veteran is someone who served on active duty for more than six months while assigned to a regular U.S. armed services unit. But at least on Veterans Day, the case should be made for a practical definition. Adam Smith may have provided the first one in 1776.

In his seminal book, “Wealth of Nations,” Smith described America’s “Minuteman” militia as those who “. . . turn from their primary citizen character into a standing army.” These were just private citizens, many of whom today we would classify as small business owners and employees.

Even though many don’t qualify for the technical definition of a veteran, past and present members of our modern militia – Reserves and National Guard – deserve to be recognized on Veterans Day. For generations, this group has made themselves available to a grateful nation, not knowing if they would ever deploy. Indeed, John Cooper’s military service began as a member of Company B, 137th Infantry, Kansas National Guard.

Allow me to enter this practical definition of a veteran into the record, from an anonymous author:  “A Veteran – whether active duty, retired, National Guard or Reserve – is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a check made payable on demand to The United States of America, for an amount up to and including their life.”

America has received, held and cashed this “check” from different kinds of patriots who prepared themselves to be called to protect and defend their country.

Write this on a rock…Happy Veterans Day to all who made themselves available to a grateful nation.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

POLL RESULTS: What are your prospects and customers indicating for the rest of the year?

The Question:
What are your prospects and customers indicating for the rest of the year?

25% - We’re getting good signals from our prospects and customers.

42% - We’re not seeing anything negative, but not great either.

25% - Customers are hanging in there, but prospects are thin.

8% - Indications so far are that the 4th quarter will not be good.

Jim’s Comments:
We’ve just received new GDP numbers which show such a poor economic performance for the third quarter that it has dragged the annual productivity of the first half of the year back down to about 2% growth year-to-date. So this week in our online poll, when we asked the question above about your experience with customers, your mostly tepid response - 75% said “not great” or worse - tracked pretty closely with the GDP trend.

President Obama inherited an economic can of worms that wasn’t of his making. But we’re now coming to the end of his seventh year in office, so there’s no question that his current ecomomic state, presiding over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, belongs to him. It’s not easy to hold back the energy, innovation and determination of America’s business sector, but the president’s anti-business agenda and policies have accomplished just that. My evidence is GDP languishing in the 2% range every year since 2009.

Consequently, just as I wrote prior to the 2012 election, that there wouldn’t be an economic expansion until we had a new president. I’m reprising that prediction again now. Unfortunately, don’t look for much in the way of economic expansion - meaning more than just marginal growth - until this president leaves office in 2017.

Thanks for playing along. Please participate in this week’s poll below.

Find Work You Can Love

young_businesswoman.jpgWhether work is a blessing or a curse depends on what you are working on and your attitude about it.  James Matthew Barrie, the Scottish novelist said, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.”

Many hard working entrepreneurs were once unproductive employees, but now, with their wagon hitched to their own star, work is the stuff of their dreams.  Many productive employees — once unsuccessfully self-employed — now understand the blessings of employment, and become the most valuable of resources: the entrepreneurial employee who loves his or her work.
Work feeds our stomachs with food and our spirit with accomplishment. Work creates, produces, energizes and fulfills all things humans need for survival and happiness.
If work is not a blessing for you — whether owner or employee — the problem is not work itself, but the work you are doing. Lebanese novelist, Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible.”
Life is short.  Keep searching until you find work you can love.  I did.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

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