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Archive for the 'Entrepreneurship' Category

Video: Customers now co-own your brand message

In this week's video I share how your customer have control over your brand.

Customers now co-own your brand message from Jim Blasingame on Vimeo.

The opportunities in adversity

As the bubonic plague hung over Europe in the mid-14th Century, it must have been difficult to imagine any associated blessings. But that’s just what the late Norman F. Cantor proposed in his book, In The Wake Of the Plague: The Black Death and The World It Made.

Cantor wrote that the devastation caused the demise of the Dark Ages, and made way for a new, enlightened order. Cantor argues that, “the Black Death heralded an intellectual revolution.” He is talking about The Reformation, The Renaissance, and The Age of Enlightenment.

Consider a few developments that occurred not long after The Plague:

Information
Gutenberg (1400-68) used his movable type to make mass printing possible. Books and bibles finally could be available to the masses. Now for the first time in human history, there was a reason for ordinary people to learn to read.

Religion
Martin Luther (1483-1546) began the Protestant Reformation, which helped loosen the grip of the old church dogma on the state and the people, and just in time for the new Gutenberg bibles.

Art
Michelangelo (1475-1564) created Renaissance art that is still valid, imitated, and valued 500 years later. Enlightened minds are inspired by beautiful things.

Science and Engineering
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) actually made significant contributions to art, thought, AND science and engineering. He was perhaps the Renaissance man. Civilization still benefits from the leveraging of his work and his thoughts.

History tells us that, just as controlled burning of brush can leave a healthier forest, adversity can spawn opportunity. But to appreciate history, one has to take the long view.

Let’s all work on our long views.


In the marketplace, it ain’t over ‘till it’s over

One of sports history’s greatest upsets happened at the 1975 U.S. Open tennis tournament at Forrest Hills, New York, when the Spaniard, Manuel Orantes, defeated legendary Jimmy Connors in straight sets (6-4, 6-3, 6-3), in Connors’ own back yard.

But that contest isn’t the best part of this story. Beating Connors to win a professional tennis Grand Slam tournament couldn’t have happened if the night before, against all odds, Orantes had not demonstrated enormous courage and extreme perseverance.

In the semi-final match between Orantes and Argentinian, Guillermo Vilas, the Spaniard was down two sets to one, five games to zip in the fourth set, and two match points in the sixth game. Vilas was serving triple match point to the seventh power.

If Orantes loses one more point in this game the match is over. And even if he battles back to win this game, he would then have to win the next six games in order to force the fifth set to determine who advances to the finals. Tennis fans know a score of 2-1, 5-0, 40-love, is an against-all-odds, improbable comeback scenario.

There’s another group that can appreciate the long odds Orantes faced—small business owners. Entrepreneurs are no strangers to the marketplace equivalent of triple match point to the seventh power. Here’s what it might look like: losing a major customer, having an unexpected expense, and a cash flow crisis resulting in a call from the bank, all in the same hour. The question is not whether a small business will have triple match point challenges—Orantes faced it only once, small businesses see it all the time—but how well the owner manages them.

Back to the tennis match: In perhaps one of the gutsiest display of guts in the history of pro tennis, Orantes overcame that triple match point to take the sixth game, and then proceeded to win the next six in a row to claim the fourth set 7-5. This courageous comeback not only produced the momentum to beat Vilas 6-4 in the final set and get Orantes into the finals with Connors, but, as you now know, it carried over to the next day when he became the 1975 U.S. Open champion by dispatching one of the greatest tennis champions of all time in straight sets.

Next time your business is down triple match point, remember that as long as the game isn’t over you can survive. As long as you have the desire to win you can succeed. As long as you believe in yourself you can gain the momentum to win today and become a champion tomorrow.

Even when you’re down triple match point, you can still win.


Small business ethics

While talking with an attorney friend of mine, our topic of discussion was about professional behavior in the marketplace. She reminded me that attorneys have very specific ethical and professional standards that are published, plus a well developed monitoring organization, complete with sanctioning authority.

The story is quite similar for CPA’s, architects, medical doctors, or any securities representative such as stock brokers, financial planners, etc. Much of the behavioral track these professionals run on is pretty well spelled out for them. Not that the members of these groups need to be led or coerced into good professional behavior. It’s just that, when in doubt, they have published guidelines with which to refer.

Small business owners operate in the same marketplace as the so-called professionals. Indeed, they are often our clients and customers. We serve the same businesses and consumers as other professionals, plus we enter into similar relationships, contracts and agreements. And we often find ourselves perched precariously on the same horns-of-a-dilemma as other professionals. But here’s the difference: The Universal Small Business Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics doesn’t exist.

Small business owners, like all humans, ultimately behave according to their own moral compass, sense of fair play and inclination to deal in good faith. When we find ourselves in a quandary over how to respond to a difficult situation with a customer that is in the gray area of a contract, we’re on our own. When we are faced with an ethical issue that would challenge King Solomon, there is no sanctioning body or support group to dial up, or to whom we can email a “scenario.”

There are many ancient codes small business owners can turn to for behavioral guidance in the marketplace, such as the last three of the Ten Commandments. But in terms of a handy guide, I think philosopher and 1957 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Albert Camus, may have given us the best ethical vector when he wrote, “Integrity has no need of rules.”

Wise small business owners know that life is much simpler, and exceedingly more rewarding, when we just do the right thing.


On top of a fence post

A while back I heard someone accept an award by telling this story. He said, “I once saw a turtle on top of a fence post. The first thing that struck me was that the turtle surely had not gotten there by himself.”

The gentleman went on to accept the award on behalf of all those who had helped him get to the top of his “fence post”.

If you are the owner, employer, and/or manager of a team of people, next time you find yourself “on top of a fence post”, make sure that you recognize the others who helped you to reach your lofty perch.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but remember, Newton’s law of gravity is especially active around fence posts. It’s handy to have people around who will want to break your fall in case you find yourself experiencing Mr. Newton’s law in an untimely descent from on high.


A little knowledge can make you smile

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond, and cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.- Mark Twain

After all these years there has been no one to compare with Twain, and the light of his wisdom has not dimmed.

No matter what we do or where we go, owner or employee, and now more than ever before, we must continue to study, train, and learn. Everyone in your organization. Everyone. Everyday. Lifelong learning.

Are you feeling threatened these days - maybe even frightened - because of all the changes brought on by the advent of the information age? Me, too. Sometimes it seems we’re like Alice - we have to run as fast as we can just to stay in one place. And in our Wonderland, everything is changing so fast that what we learn today may be obsolete tomorrow.

The irony is that the thing that is creating so much potential for anxiety - technology - is also the thing that can help you stay competitive. And the unprecedented wealth of information available on the Internet is a two edged sword: one side cutting for us, and the other for our competition.

When I feel threatened by all of the new information and capability that’s emerging, I just make a point to learn something new, with emphasis on e-commerce, or the Internet, or how my industry is adapting to the virtual marketplace. And when I acquire that new understanding or capability, I smile like Alice’s Cheshire Cat.

Learning makes me feel stronger, as if I’ve gained a little ground in the marketplace. Maybe today I’ll put the heat on somebody else.

Advantage: Me.

Give it a try. The only thing better than your garden variety smile is one that comes from knowing that you just got a little smarter.

I have to say, however, cauliflower does not make me smile.