Entrepreneurial News®

Don’t Dig a Hole

Loren Feldman of 21 Hats has presented me with another topic: What do you do after you lose a couple of large clients in a row?

The first thing is don’t get down on yourself.

The second thing is analyzing why things went wrong and you got fired.

You lost them for a reason, possibly a not very good reason, but you need to do some soul searching.

  1. Were your fees too high in relation to performance? If so, what could have been done to improve performance? Did the assignment generate more in profits (or will it) than its cost? Does the client understand this?
  2. Were you a good fit in the client’s culture? Did you work well with the people in the company that you were supposed to?
  3. How receptive was management to what changes you were proposing?
  4. Did you do an ‘after action’ debrief with the client to find out why they fired you?

There are probably more questions that could be asked, but it’s key to get back up on the horse and ride. Don’t fall in the pity well and not recover.

You might have to make changes in your outlook for example, when I started marketing consulting, I did lose  two large clients in a row. One for financial reasons, one because the CEO was difficult to work with and had underestimated how much capital he needed to launch.

I determined several things:

  1. Broaden my consulting focus towards smaller companies;
  2. Don’t do startups, which may not take your advice and may be underfunded;
  3. Broaden my consulting services to, in my case, owner consulting, which because the major focus of my practice for 20 years and was more successful than the marketing consulting, because I was able to pioneer a market in Phoenix, rather than be an entrant in a already crowded market.

So, go out and have a margarita for lunch and think about what happened, why it happened  and what positive things it portends.

Accentuate the positive.

Dodging WalMart

Loren Feldman made the point that business owners are burning out trying to compete with WalMart.

Might be right.

You don’t want to pick a fight with the WalMart big dog, or possibly the Target big dog, either.

If anything, and we have a pending project to do this, use WalMart as a benchmark for products and services because, as large as they are, they’re pretty nimble. And then we reverse engineer.

So, we say develop products and services that WalMart (or Target for that matter) doesn’t carry. In the process, you get unique offerings that will stand out from WM, and even the rest of your competitors.

For example, we have a client who has a water-saving hose nozzle under development, which won’t be found at WalMart unless they approach him with an offer (I’ve seen it happen) at reasonable price points. In his case, we might dodge big dog Ace Hardware, too, although they’re pretty easy to deal with.

We plan to use internet and social media to publicize the nozzle (the domain is already registered) and a prototype GoDaddy site is parked with GD. I plan to personally test it, given the size of my water bills.

So, if you have a product idea, use WalMart for reverse engineering and a competitive survey of what’s out there,

Do a focus group over lunch at a restaurant and invite some people you know who might be interested.

But don’t panic over a little incoming, gang.

Hammer Down

With apologies to some of my racing buddies, whose term the title is, we are advocating that you keep the hammer down on your marketing and sales efforts, despite a little tick upward in interest rates.

And my former finance professor at Wharton, Dr. Jerome Siegel, also said that the downgrading of the US debt ought not have much, if any, effect on your expansion plans.

An uptick in interest rates might adversely affect profitability, but not enough to alter your long term strategy.

You might have to rerack your projects based on higher interest rates, but that’s just an annoyance.

Remember, your competitors are probably doing the same thing, and you don’t want to do what they’re doing, and you don’t want to pull in your horns.

Keep the hammer down, folks.

Should You Yell at Your Employees?

Loren Feldman of 21 Hats thinks one should never yell at your employees. We reserve judgement.

I’ll also say that I can’t remember the last time I caught one of my clients yelling at employees. But they’re on their best behavior when I’m around.

We say it depends on what the reason for the yelling was, the toughmindedness of the employees and what they expect from you as their leader.

Let’s start with your leadership style. We advocate being a situational leader, one that uses either authoritarian, coaching or situational leadership. We prefer situational leadership, because you can lead with the style the situation demands. Coaching might be preferred with younger employees who are more ‘fragile’ because they haven’t been in the work world long Or, you can be more harsh with veteran employees who know the right way something should be done. Lastly, there is a type of leader that yells all the time, possibly because he/she is passive aggressive and not confident of his/her leadership style. The Navy used to be full of them.

Personally, when I yelled at my employees, which was quite rare, they knew they screwed up and better fix the situation quickly. And, in the one case, I apologized to them, because I was tired and stressed, having just come back from a weeklong business trip and discovered some problems we caused with one of our large customers.

Secondly, examine your employees: have they been in their jobs a while, and should they have known better? Where there time pressures to complete a task? If you don’t often yell at them, they know that yelling is a special circumstance

As a leader, you have to control your emotions when you are in charge. But emotional intelligence is completely separate topic for another blog.

What Recession?

My uncle Dave Loehwing was editor of Barron’s, the financial newspaper for many years, and I recall that he used to say ‘if you think you’re in a recession, you are’, meaning that your negative talk and actions could force your company into a recession, when that need not be the case.

I see more and more financial pundits saying that we’re in a recession, but we don’t see it. We’re based in Arizona, which has been relatively insulated from recession by tourist and resettlement inflows, but things aren’t bad.

Despite our circulation, or impressions as we now frame it, we’re not going to made much of a dent in national media attitudes. If it bleeds, it leads, and that’s recession.

It’s time to ramp up your marketing and sales efforts, to stave off the recession and do some coaching of your staff to not thing negatively about things. If they have negative attitudes, they might transmit that to customers, who might not buy.

Keep looking at those new projects that you could do. Maybe you have to adjust the ROI down a bit, but do they still make sense?

Swipe a customer or two from your competition.

Add people where it makes sense; there seem to be a lot of good people looking to improve themselves on Indeed and Zip Recruiter.

The bottom line is that the Nervous Nellies will still be with us when we go up the right hand side of the pundits’ hockey stick, so just ignore them and do what you think is right.

Life After Capitalism

No, we haven’t capitulated to the Biden Bunch. That’s the title of a new book from George Gilder, of ‘Wealth and Poverty’ fame.

We looked forward to getting the book when it was announced on Amazon, but I must say that it hasn’t quite lived up to our expectations.

The problem, as we see it, is that Gilder doesn’t really get around to writing about the title until the latter 1/4 of the book.

Gilder’s solutions to life after capitalism are rather normal: stable government so businesses can invest, encouragement of entrepreneurs and information capitalism. The latter topic is intriguing, and gets into Chat/GPT, but not in depth. Let’s hope he writes more about this topic. These topics are covered late in the book.

Another problem is that Gilder gets into a number of other topics: The Meaning of Wealth, The Future of the Economy and the Time Theory of Money. These topics are covered early in the book, so one is left wondering if the title was dreamed up by the publisher (Regnery Gateway) to be catchy and sell books.

All of these topics are worthy of treatment in a book, but IMHO, not the same book. They all bear on capitalism, but not necessarily Life After Capitalism.

As always, Gilder is a very fluid writer, so even when he’s off topic, he’s enjoyable to read.

The Right Political Climate

We’re an entrepreneurial blog, not a political one, but the gist of this post is entrepreneurial.

Donald Trump did much to encourage entrepreneurs, with lower tax rates, more liberal depreciation and other things.

Most of these the Biden administration has undone. But their uncertainty on social and ecconomic policy has not helped.

So, we’re going to propose a method by which a center right political climate could be developed and retained.

First we start with reelecting Donald Trump. Despite his style, he’s effective.

However, one thing he didn’t do was develop a successor; Mike Pence doesn’t have the charisma to be President, which is why he’s so far down in the polls.

We recommend DJT appoint Mike Pompeo his running mate. This is, we think a winning ticket. Pompeo is vastly respected internationally and can keep the Chinese and Russians in line.

After Trump is termed out, in 2028, Pompeo runs for President, is probably elected, and he chooses Ron DeSantis as his running mate.

After 8 years of Pompeo/DeSantis, then DeSantis runs on his own, and is probably elected. He’ll still be young and will develop more charisma.

By that time, some of the Republican bench might be ready to step up to VP.  J.D. Vance of Ohio comes to mind.

The idea of all this is to keep the Democrats out of power until they adopt a more centrist attitude. The US is a center-right country, has been for a long time, and should stay that way.

Biden was center left at one time, but sold out to the progressives for a bunch of money. RFK Jr. and Newsom might have potential, but at the moment, I don’t think they’re electable.

So, there you have it. Let’s keep the ‘right’ political climate, and we’ll all be happier.

The Corporate Hairball

When cats get too much of their fur, they get sick and cough it up.

The present corporate obsession with being ‘woke’ and pandering to the LGBT community strikes us as a little like a corporate hairball: the companies all spent too much time preening themselves, at the expense of their main markets, only to get sickened by their customers who punished their stock values for being so narrow minded.

Parenthetically, we think that being ‘woke’, in the sense of being aware of your markets, is probably a good thing, but the term has gotten a bad rap, so it has to be avoided. We’re sure that the adpersons can think of a suitable replacement.

We hope that our main readership in the SMB community didn’t commit such silly mistakes. We don’t know why the big companies did, and why their CEOs didn’t apologize, but they didn’t.

We had a client years ago, Taser, who makes the stun instruments, and when the devices first came out, they weren’t nearly as good as they are now, and were roundly misused by their major market, the law enforcement community. Taser got severe adverse publicity from the general public, even though the misuse wasn’t really their fault.

The owners and managers of Taser didn’t want to believe that their client base could be so stupid as to misuse their product, and it took some persuading to get them to apologize to the public, but they did, and did a lot of public relations (which is where we came in) with their customers. But a better product emerged from the chaos, so that was good.

We hope that the managements of Bud Light, Target and the others who committed these corporate faux pas have learned from their mistakes.


DIRECT TV Instructions

We just reprogrammed two remotes sent to us by DIRECT TV to replace two that broke, and we noticed a common problem with the instructions: You have to MANUALLY turn on the TVs, to get the remotes programmed.

It’s a simple thing, but you have to engineer the instructions to overcome all sorts of potential misunderstandings.

We will say that the DIRECT TV customer service reps were unfailingly helpful. Our large TV is hard to program, and the instructions are better than they used to be (we had to have a tech out to program them the last time they failed), but we’re offering this one small improvement:

“Turn on the TV manually, using the power button, usually on the back of the TV. If you can’t find it, consult your TV owner’s manual”.

The way the instructions are written, they imply you can turn on the TV using the new remote, once you’ve powered it up, which isn’t true.

You’re welcome, DIRECT TV.


Get All Those Markets

Recently, there have been a spate of marketing missteps by companies that should know better, such as Bud Lite and  Miller Lite.

We don’t think it’s just a beer thing.

For some reason, many current marketing managers let their ‘woke’ ideology get in the way of sound marketing decisions.

For example, Bud Lite because of a mistake in using Dylan Mulvaney a niche influencer at best, to advertise their beer, which is a mainstream product and was using mainstream media, caused a 12% sales DECLINE as the US is heading into the holidays and the summer. And has to redesign their packaging to stress normal patriotic Bud Lite themes. The CEO of Bud Lite still hasn’t issued an apology over the mainstream media channels, which he should.

Similarly, Miller Lite featured some bikini models in a recent ad using mainstream media, and alienated some feminist groups. No counter ads using say, the Chippendales drinking Miller Lite and running in feminist-oriented media.

The point of these two problems is that marketers should either pursue mainstream themes if using mainstream media, or niche media if doing a niche ad. Either is ok, but don’t confuse the two, because you’re confuse and alienate your core markets.

Figure out which strategy you’re going to use, and then design the ad to influence the target market to buy your product. Or, remind the target market you’re still around and would value their purchase of your product.

And maybe, just maybe, do some retraining of your marketeers.