Sunday, May 31, 2009

Always see your customers' perspective

"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?" - George Carlin

Perspective is a tricky thing. How you view something can either be similar or vastly different than how someone else views it. When it comes to business, perspective is everything. Successful businesses go to great lengths to ensure not only getting their branding right, but also develop and perfect ways to make things better for the customer.

To be successful in business, you have to be able to consider the perspective of others, and not just your own internal perspective (whether it is your company's or just yourself). I've touched upon this concept here and there in my previous posts, but I want to reiterate just how important this principle is.

Normally, every thing in existence will have its proponent and its critic. However, there is an issue of concern if something has way more critics than proponents. It is extremely vital to always be collecting feedback from external parties, whether it be friends, family or complete strangers (such as customers). What may seem "easy" "useful" or "affordable" to you, may not necessarily apply to others.

Failing to understand the perspective of your customers can cost you dearly. Therefore, there are two useful exercises you should do. This applies to whether you have a business already or you are planning to start one:

Exercise 1: Ask yourself 50 negative questions (i.e. "Why should I care about xyz product/service?") and then answer them. Don't worry if you can't reach 50, just try your hardest to get close to that number. The reason for that is that it will force your mind to think from an outside perspective. You may find this exercise a bit sobering, but it will save you later.

Exercise 2: Get your friends and even strangers to test out your product/service and collect their feedback. Make sure they give you HONEST feedback and have them elaborate on their feedback. For example, if someone says, "I think xyz is great." Ask them why. Why do they find it great? You need to understand exactly what you do well, and what you don't do well. Most likely, feedback will end up clumping into a handful of similar issues. People simply have different ways of expressing their thoughts. It's up to you to interpret feedback into coherent themes that you can act upon.

We've all seen businesses who have terrible customer service and/or weak value propositions. Usually, those businesses either suffer greatly or collapse completely. You won't share their fate if you always do your best to understand your customers' perspective. Whether someone loves or hates your business...they'll always be willing to give you a piece of their mind. Use that to your advantage. Most importantly of all, always be critical of yourself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Don't be a cog in "The Machine"

One of the reasons Pink Floyd is a legendary band was that a good deal of their songs were powerful social commentaries that caused you to really think.

One of their songs, "Welcome to the Machine" although originally written as a criticism of the soullessness of the music industry, is also, I believe, a reflection of society as a whole. Like I mentioned in previous posts, society is crucial to maintain order. However, in order to maintain order, things must be predictable and controllable.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying you should go out, grab a bazooka and fight "the establishment." What I am saying though is that you should NEVER let ANYONE tell you how to live your life. To be an entrepreneur, you need to be prepared to go against the grain of society. You need to be independent. It's your life, not anyone else's.

With that, I present to you Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine." It is a very powerful song, indeed. For those of you viewing this post on Facebook, you will have to go onto my blog directly ( to view the video.

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
Where have you been?
It's alright we know where you've been.
You've been in the pipeline, filling in time,
Provided with toys and 'Scouting for Boys'.
You bought a guitar to punish your ma,
And you didn't like school, and you
know you're nobody's fool,
So welcome to the machine.

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
What did you dream?
It's alright we told you what to dream.
You dreamed of a big star,
He played a mean guitar,
He always ate in the Steak Bar.
He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
So welcome to the Machine.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day: Never Forget

I, and many of you, have either friends or family in the military that are currently fighting in Iraq & Afghanistan or will be deployed soon. Never forget that each and every one of them is a hero. Anyone who volunteers to put their life on the line for the defense of his people is a hero. Movies, and even the media sometimes, cause us to forget that soldiers are normal people just like us.

These men and women face fear and danger very few of us will ever comprehend. To quote William Sherman, "War is hell." Without them, our way of life as we know it today would not exist. The best way to honor these men and women is to help build the country that they sacrificed themselves to defend.

Start a business, do volunteer work, better your community, do whatever you can do to help make your country better. Every little thing counts. As you look back upon the triumphs of your life, never forget those who made it possible for you.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Always set goals

There's no journey without some sort of destination. least that's what I keep telling myself ;)

But in all seriousness, as a future or current entrepreneur, you must get in the habit of setting goals for yourself. If you read the success stories of great entrepreneurs (both small and big), one of the key secrets to their success is that they set goals for themselves. In a way, we all set goals for ourselves, at least internally. However, that is not always enough. Often times, the goals we set for ourselves are not high enough either.

I was once told by a successful entrepreneur, "You know why people never get ahead in life? It's not because they don't set goals. It's because they set the bar too low, and they just keep jumping over it time and time again."

To really harness the power of goal-setting, you need to make your goals a realistic challenge to achieve. It's the same concept in sports or martial arts. If you want to get better, you need to challenge yourself and never be afraid of failure. Often times, you need to pit yourself against people who are "out of your league." It's the sincere effort in conquering that goal that makes you stronger.

Make sure that your goal is specific (put a number to it) and that it is within a self-imposed deadline. For example, "My goal is to make $100,000 a month by the end of 2009." Your brain, believe it or not, will subconsciously do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, as long as you are sincere and focused. WRITE your goal down and place it where you can see it everyday.

Well, off to my journey. I knew I should have made a left turn at Albuquerque...

Just as a reminder, the new blog update days are Sunday & Wednesday. See you then!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The first step is always the hardest

Floid Factoid: A plane or shuttle burns the most fuel during take off.

If you ask any serious entrepreneur what were some of the most difficult times of his/her venture, it'll usually be "the start-up phase" It can also happen to be the most fun, but it all depends on your mindset and your determination.

From what I've garnered from personal experience and the experience of others, most people become intimidated by the often daunting task of starting a new business. As you may have read in my previous posts, it takes iron determination, a good deal of homework and a passion for what you do. If you were to survey salesmen or entrepreneurs, most of them fail/drop-out in the beginning stages (1st year usually) of their endeavors. Out of those who make it past the initial stages (after 1-2 years or so), very few end up dropping out in the mid to late term. That is why entrepreneurs are a minority. If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it, right? However, that is why the rewards are so great.

Newton's Law of Inertia applies to people too. Objects that are stationary remain stationary, and objects in motion stay in motion unless an external force interferes. When you first start a business, you're going from a stationary state to a state of motion. However, the greatest amount of force exerted is in the initial acceleration phase. As the factoid above mentions, a plane/shuttle burns the most fuel on take-off in order to overcome friction and gravity. If you're in a state of motion, momentum will keep you going. In fact, with momentum, things get a lot easier.

As a future or a current entrepreneur, don't let the daunting tasks in the beginning deter you. Yes, you will have to work hard. Yes, you will have to make sacrifices. Most importantly, you will have to venture into the unknown. However, keep in mind that for every day you work hard now, that is one more day you have earned for yourself in living the life you want in the future. You are making an investment in the present to generate a great return in the future.

Just keep pushing forward. Eventually, momentum will take over.

Whew, looks like I JUST made the post right before 12:00 AM ;) By the way, I'm changing my blog update days to every Sunday and Wednesday. The next blog post will be on Sunday, May 24th.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Out For Lunch - Be Back Thursday"

Hey everyone,

I know today's update day, but I have a mountain of work to take care stay tuned for a new blog post on Thursday!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Be different, but be useful

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein


By Einstein's definition, most people are insane. But then again, society teaches us that if enough people believe or do the same thing, it is "normal" That sounds pretty insane to me. I've always believed that the true measure of one's intellgience and character is being able to understand and rise above our basic instincts and "machine-like" responses.

It's one thing to be different just for difference's sake, it's quite another to be different to get what you want. Being different just simply to be different means you're still a conformist. You just simply conform to the other side of the fence in society.

Lets take music for an example. Death Metal is VERY different than anything else...yet it's probably one of the most unpopular forms of music...mostly because it's just a lot of throat growling, very angry and unintelligible lyrics. It's one thing if you truly like the music, it's quite another when you listen to it...just simply so you can be "badass" or to fit in with a crowd.

And that brings us to entrepreneurs...I've seen some aspiring entreprenerus come up with some seriously wacky business ideas and totally "avant-garde" marketing ideas. Then when you ask them, "So uhh...why are you doing this?" Not a single answer that comes out of them is even remotely based on fact.

In their machinations, they were conditioned to believe that being different automatically equals being successful or useful. They were doing what they were doing, just for the sake of being different and "cool" when fundamentally, they were "useless." It's like a bent fork...sure it's different, but you'd sooner throw it in a trash can, or show a silly picture of it to your friends before actually using it.

It is very important to ask yourself a key question before you start a "different" or "unique" business or a project:

"Why hasn't anyone, or very few people, done this before?"

Again, just like a bent fork, it could simply be that that the idea may actually be of very little use or value to people. However, if the facts support the potential usefulness of your product/service, and you're simply a first/early mover...then go for it.

As an entrepreneur, you can't be different JUST for the sake of being different...because you only end up being the same as everyone else. As I've stated time and time again in this blog, you need to provide value to people.

The moral of this story? Be different, but be useful.

I shall leave you with a HILARIOUS clip to drive the point home ;)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Business is nothing personal...

"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate...leads to suffering!" -Yoda (no...not KERMIT!)

Emotions...most illogical...

Ok, nerd hour has officially ended. By the way, Star Trek was an awesome movie.

Emotion is a double edged sword. Emotions can be a great source of strength when they are used positively. Note that I didn't say "positive" emotions...because whether an emotion is positive or negative depends on the context of the situation. For example, a "negative" emotion like Anger can actually be very helpful in certain situations, especially when that energy is channeled into a positive thing. On the other hand, emotions can be a fatal weakness as well.

In business, the only room for emotion is when it is used in positive ways. Unfortunately, they are often used in negative ways. A great example is with some of my friends who are small business owners. EVERY business will always have a few clients that are complete divas. Even when there is no problem with your operation, they will find something to complain about.

There is a great quote to remember: "Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience."

In business, there's a concept called "Cost of retaining a customer." There have been many debates on whether or not you should keep a difficult customer. The answer is No. The reason being is that your time and energy can be used to get new, better customers or strengthen the relationship with your good & loyal customers. However, if it comes down to showing the customer the door, do it professionally, and don't get emotional. Remember, business is nothing personal.

A great entrepreneur once told me, "Listen, business is a mix of sport and war. You'll fight many battles, but ultimately, it's just a competition." I advise you to take this to heart. No one is out to destroy you or kill you. People who are serious in business want to cross the finish line. Some play dirty, but those people usually don't last long. When you start taking business personally, you only cripple yourself.

Oh, and an update on that story with the senior staff jumping ship from that company I spoke about in "No One Can Provide For You Except Yourself" (April). Unfortunately, their office is now closing down. However, as a testament to their strength, they aren't taking it personally. In fact, they're having a yard sale next week, which should be pretty fun ;) They'll get far because they know how to channel their energy in positive ways. We can all learn from their admirable example.

Live long and prosper! Till Saturday!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

You're more than a Working Class Hero

"It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe." - Muhammad Ali

Being part of a society is an important thing. It provides the needed cooperation and order to ensure the progress and advancement of a people. However, for something to be orderly, it must be predictable. As such, society has measures, both consciously and unconsciously, to ensure this. It's known by many names..."The System" "The Man" "The Establishment" whatever suits your fancy.

The greatest flaw of "The System" is that you are never taught how to provide for yourself. Every single one of us have had a teacher or a few say "Well, when you get a job..." or something to that extent. I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with working at a job, as long as you learn everything you can to provide for yourself and then move on.

Don't let "The System" sell you "the ladder". The tool shed is right over there, build one yourself and go as high as you want. Don't let the pebble in your shoe (your doubts) stop you from conquering the mountains.

I want to leave you with a song from the late, great John Lennon titled "Working Class Hero" It is definitely one of his darker works, but it is very true.

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so f'ing crazy you can't follow their rules

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function you're so full of fear

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and class less and free
But you're still f'ing peasants as far as I can see

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The big fish in a fish bowl...

There was once a tale of a fish who swam the great seas with his school. The fish had a wild imagination, and the wonders of the ocean never ceased to amaze him. He would ask "Why?" everywhere he went. He pictured being a great fish one day. He imagined exploring foreign lands beyond the ocean, he imagined other fish cheering for him and he imagined a life where happiness would never end.

The fish grew stronger and more mature as time passed, and he went from one school of fish to another, until suddenly, a fish came to him and said, "You are indeed a great swimmer, you're very smart, and I could use a bright fish like yourself to help me!" And so the older, bigger fish tested him, he asked him many questions and finally said, "You will be a great fish someday! Come with me."

The fish followed the big fish for a short while, and then saw a beautiful bowl of glass. It shined as bright as the crystal sunlight above. "Inside..." the big fish said "if you do a good job, you will never worry about going hungry...I'll even let you go outside the bowl once or twice every now and then!" The bright young fish agreed. After all, never going hungry? That was generous of the big fish!

As the years passed, the bright young fish became an older, bigger fish...just like the one that approached him so long ago. He went from bowl to bowl...gazing upon the rest of the ocean but never venturing outside. He didn't want to go hungry... Eventually he took in many bright young fish like himself. He would test them, and ask them many questions.

When the fish became old, he decided to retire to the vast oceans once more. Alas, he was too old to swim and explore. As he floated in the middle of the vast ocean, ignored and weary...he looked upon the happy fish that swam freely.

With a heavy heart and a frown on his face, he asked himself a question he used to ask all the time as a young fish:


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Life absorbs the positive energy you put into it

If life was a box of chocolates, then you'd end up with cavities and diabetes.

Huh? RUH ROH! This is a post on positivity ;)

I like to think of all of our lives as plants. Plants need light and water to grow (for the most part - for you "technical" people). If we assume that "water" is our actions, then the "sunlight" must be our positive thinking. Since the dawn of civilized man, a negative attitude has always been associated with darkness and death. When you think negatively, you are suffocating your own life. A plant withers and dies without light.

What you have to remember is that everything in life is based on your perception. A life worth living is forged through the fires of adversity. You simply can't afford to be negative, because there is no way to avoid challenges and obstacles. We can't avoid, we can only overcome.

Often times, you'll find that bad things might actually be good in the long run. If you look at the success stories of famous entrepreneurs, they all had some sort of negative event happen to them that sparked their entrepreneurial flame. What did they all have in common? A relentless optimism that kept them going. They did not let the fires of adversity consume them. Through their positive thinking, they allowed the fires of adversity to forge them.

Whenever adversity hits you, just could have been worse. Adversity is a time to learn valuable lessons. It always makes you stronger. It is a fundamental truth of our existence that our life is a manifestation of our mental attitude. Life is what you make of it. Don't turn out the light.

And remember...there is no greater wall than the wall in our minds. Tear it down and let your light shine into your life. Nourish your life with positive energy, and it will grow tall and strong.

Ok, I'm going to go and have some chocolate now.