Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bad Breaks

I was lying in the hospital bed thinking what will happen next. My life, as I knew it, had changed. I wasn’t quite ready to hear what the doctor told me next. “Son,” he said “it looks like you won’t be able to do all the things you used to do, but you will heal over time.” That kind of news is devastating to a 9 year old boy. After all, baseball season was quickly approaching.

I had broken my arm after falling out of a tree. You may be thinking, “You’re being a little dramatic aren’t you? Everyone gets hurt some time or another.” That’s not the point of the story anyway.

I was told that I would not be able to accomplish what I set out to do. Has that ever happened to you? Did you believe it? It seems everyone wants to tell you what you can and can’t do. You have to decide if that’s true.

One evening my father came home from work and he asked me if I really wanted to play baseball. “Of course I do!” I said. “Great!” he said with a smile, “then I have a present for you.” He walked me to the garage and pulled out a brand new Louisville Slugger. “I bought you a new bat.” he said proudly. Then he took out his saw and cut it in half. “If you want to play, you are going to have to work hard and learn all over again. You have to learn to play with one arm.” He told me.

My father spent every evening teaching me to bat with one arm. I was getting really good and I began to gain confidence. “Two weeks until try outs” he said, “It’s time to learn to catch and throw.”

I was ready, but the Little League would not allow me to try out. They said it was too dangerous. This time my father went to bat for me. “He’s been working like crazy just for a chance try out. If he’s not good enough that’s fine, but you have to give him a shot.” Their answer was no.

My Dad would not give up. We went back to the hospital and the doctor built me a special cast and strap to secure my arm. He also wrote a note that said it was not too dangerous. I was finally given a special try out to see if I could actually play baseball with one arm. I made the team that year and even made the starting line-up.

You may one day find yourself facing a crisis and thinking what could possibly happen next. It is too easy to assume it will be bad. Overcoming has its own reward. After all, I am still telling stories about when I was nine. (Did I mention I hit a home run?)



Principal 1: You are the only one who can decide what you can accomplish.

Principal 2: You need support. Surround yourself people who have your best interest in mind.

Principal 3: Hard work alone is not always enough. You will have to fight for what you believe is right.

Friday, April 11, 2014

In Theory

It wasn’t long after I got my driver’s license that I asked my Dad if I could get a motorcycle. He quickly responded, “No!” His response didn’t surprise me – I had been asking for years. He told me it was too dangerous and that I didn’t know how to ride. So, I taught myself. I read books, I talked with friends who rode, and I studied for the driver’s test. I knew all there was to know about motorcycles – in theory.

A few years later, my brother and I traveled Europe. We thought it would be great to rent scooters and drive through the Black Forest in Germany. When we arrived at the rental shop, they were out of scooters, but they did have a motorcycle. My brother turned to me and said, “You know how to ride, right?” “Yes”, I said. So I taught him everything I knew in about 5 minutes. Most people feel that getting rental insurance is a waste of money, but we were smarter than that, we got all the insurance we could buy.

It did not take long to realize that getting insurance was a good thing. I quite literally took a crash course in motorcycle riding technique. I didn’t crash right away; I had learned to ride a bike after all. But eventually my inexperience became quite evident. I inadvertently pulled a wheelie going uphill. As I began to fall backwards my death grip on the handles caused me to increase the throttle. (It was quite an impressive ride, if I had meant it.) I quickly slammed down on the foot break. The front end of the bike crashed to the ground and I was thrown over the handle bars. As I looked back, I saw the motorcycle begin to slide down the mountain.

I’m often asked which I feel is more important, education or experience. (Once again, people are asking the wrong questions.) Education is important, but education is the first step, not the last. I also know that there is one thing that trumps experience – talent. If you’ve chosen who you do business with based on education and experience alone, I’d get insurance.



Principal 1: You will, at some point, encounter something you were not prepared for. That experience will shape you. You will gain from it or it will create fear.

Principal 2: The words “In Theory” are clouded by doubt. Be afraid.

Principal 3: Talent is an intangible. Reward talent. Experience will come.

Friday, March 28, 2014

One Foot, Then the Other

Lately I’ve been inspired to work out. I’ve become a little softer than I would like to be and I’m getting older, but I am not ready to slow down quite yet. Whenever I get inspired, I get after it. The problem is somehow I still think I am able to do what I could do in my twenties.

Even though I know I should, I don’t really stretch before I work out – it hurts. I want to go jogging, because I know that jogging usually gets me results quickly. But I live in Colorado and there isn’t quite enough oxygen available unless you are in shape. So, it’s not too hard to convince myself that I should ride the stationary bike first and get in shape before I start jogging.

I eat a healthy breakfast and I’m fine for a while. I know that during the day I should drink a glass of water, but when I get to work I typically go for a cup of coffee. By the time dinner comes around I’m starving. (Yes, I ate lunch.) Moderation just doesn’t seem like a good idea, or I might not survive the night. The next day, the process starts all over again.

After a little while, it’s clear there are really only two options.

Option 1: Quit screwing around and do things right.
Option 2: Give up.

Getting in shape hurts at first, then it begins to feel great. You have to have the will to push yourself if you want to improve. In theory jogging is easy, just put one foot in front of the other. Nike had it right, “Just do it!”



Principal 1: You will lose what once made your business great if you focus on what you were able to accomplish in the past. Business is about the present.

Principal 2: Poor business practices are like bad habits – they are hard to break. It may hurt at first. Keep working, it will get results.

Principal 3: For sustained business success there is no quick fix or silver bullet. Take it one step at a time, but keep moving forward.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What Happened to Personal Interaction?

It seems that we all want to be connected, but no one wants to interact. Trying to talk to an actual person when you need help often becomes more frustrating than the problem you were calling about. And chances are that when you finally reach someone you can’t understand them or they don’t have any authority to take care of you. Don’t get me wrong, technology and automation have their place, but I fear that our concept of customer service has shifted to the mindset of “it’s not my problem”.

Last week I was checking my mail and I noticed some official looking envelope. I opened it and stared at it for a while. I received a fine for running a red light and I wanted desperately to plead my case. If I stopped, it could have been dangerous. I could have been in an accident just trying to slow down. It was safest for me to run the light. Does anyone believe me? Probably not, but I still wanted to defend myself, I wasn’t even sure if the light was really red. I turned the page over to see if there was a number I could call. Then it occurred to me that even if there was a phone number for me to call, the likelihood of me getting an actual person was slim.

After turning the page I quickly realized I had no case. I stared at a picture of myself looking up at the light. (I looked guilty.) The next picture was of my license plate and below that was my recorded speed. (It was over the speed limit.) My only option was to pay the fine.

I needed to make my case to someone, so I showed a number of people my awesome new photo. It's true, there is something comforting about personal interaction.



Principal 1: Technology has the potential to greatly enhance your business process, but people still buy your product. Don’t forget about people.

Principal 2: Business is still built on relationships. In a world focused on technology, personal interaction could help differentiate you from the competition.

Principal 3: People want to be heard. Businesses want feedback. Let’s talk.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Swinging for the Fences

When I moved to Colorado, I looked forward to all of the great outdoor activities I would soon be able to enjoy. But after living here a while, I began to miss simple things – like softball. Don’t get me wrong, they do play softball in Colorado. The problem I had was that nobody knew I did. I had to find a team and I also had to make new friends.

I finally met someone who played in a league and weekend tournaments. This was my chance to play, so I asked if his team ever needed a substitute. He didn’t even answer the question before he asked me if I was good. Now I had to make a critical decision. If I tell the truth, I might sound arrogant and they won’t want me on their team. If I attempt to be humble, I may never get the opportunity to play. So I did what my parents taught me to do – I told the truth. “Yes, I’m good.” I said. The guy looked at me, surprised that I would dare say such a thing. “Really good?” he asked. “Yes.” I answered.

I gave him my number and waited for a call. It came that week. I showed up for the game and the other team began to complain and said I was a ringer. My new team put me at shortstop and fourth in the batting line-up, and no one had ever even seen me play.

We began the game without any batting practice. It was my turn to bat. There were two outs and a runner on third base. When the pitch came, I swung for the fences – it was my time to shine. My bat speed was incredible; I expected to hit the ball far into the parking lot. The only problem was I darn near missed the ball. It rolled about five feet in front of the catcher. The next few seconds, would define my character.

I didn’t hesitate. I ran so fast to first base, that I couldn’t stop until I was half way to the right field fence. I scored that inning and as I approached the team, I could hear the sarcastic chants of “Ringer” come from the dugout.

I played with that team for five years. Perhaps they appreciated the effort. Every now and then when the time was right, I swung for the fence, just to show I could still hit the home run when we needed it. But what the team really counted on me for was the consistent base hit, the effort, and most importantly, no excuses.



Principal 1: The effects of marketing take time. Your goal should be consistency and effort, not the home run.

Principal 2: Your character is defined more by how you respond to adversity than how much you succeed.

Principal 3: Don’t mistake confidence for arrogance. Arrogance is annoying. Confidence is respected.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Marketing Agency Goes “Green”

I’ve been thinking. (It happens a lot.) Maybe it’s time I turn my company “Green”. After all, in all of our years in business, our ideas have never adversely affected the environment. Our product (creativity and strategy) is completely natural. Our carbon footprint can’t even be detected. It turns out we’ve been “Green” a long time. It’s time everyone knows it.

I’m a marketer after all, so I can very easily coin a new marketing term and tell new clients the same thing I said last year, but this year I will be socially conscious. That should get some press. Business may just start pouring in. Maybe the government could subsidize our brain storm meetings.

I may get so much business by being “Green”, I won’t ever need to show my portfolio again or even give another presentation. Yep, life will be great. Is anyone buying this? Then why do you think it will work for you.

Who convinced everyone that truth doesn’t matter and that honesty, integrity, loyalty, talent, and hard work are things of the past? All you really need to do is tell everyone you are “Green”. Oh, and don’t forget to create a facebook profile.



Principal 1: Build your business on solid business practices not gimmicks.

Principal 2: Avoid hype that gets you noticed for the wrong reasons.

Principal 3: Investing in the current trend will only mean you have to invest more in the next one.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Depressed Schnauzer

I recently returned from my family’s Disney vacation. Walt Disney World is the epitome of non-stop marketing. I knew it and I didn’t care. How is that possible?

Don’t people hate shameless promotion? Don’t they feel “sold” when they purchase baseball caps with ears and blinking lights – hats that they will never have the opportunity to wear outside of the park? Aren’t we supposed to be angry that we are made to stand in line and stare at corporate sponsored displays? The answer is no! We love it. We even pay to see it.

We watched a fireworks display every night. Isn’t that overkill? No! Disney is about branding from start to finish. They understand that everything matters. Even their employees are called cast members. They are on stage. They represent Disney. I will be honest; we did have some bad experiences. Most notably was a concierge that bad mouthed the company and had a less than pleasant attitude. I have to say that my first thought after meeting him was, “They should fire his butt today.” Disney has about 50,000 employees and my encounter with one was enough to change my experience.

By now you may be thinking what the heck does this have to do with my depressed schnauzer. Good question. Ever since we’ve been home my dog acts like something is wrong. I think he wants to bring me down. There are two possibilities, either he had a great time while we were gone and wishes we hadn’t come home, or he is completely jealous that we had fun without him. If he doesn’t snap out of it, I may have to get myself a new dog before none of us are able to get out of bed in the morning.



Principal 1: Branding is internal and external. To maintain the integrity of your brand you will need to focus on marketing to your employees as well.

Principal 2: Your reputation depends on more than your product and promotions. You must create a complete customer experience.

Principal 3: One bad attitude can bring everyone down. Change the attitude or change the person.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Next Big Thing

If people could really pick the "next big thing", Forbes would have to run a double issue of the world’s richest people. Still agencies uselessly spend their client’s money on focus groups, commercial testing and a bunch of other bogus research projects. Who came up with the notion that people know what motivates them to buy anyway?

The truth is, consumers don’t often think about their “motivation to buy”. So how can you expect to get accurate information in a focus group or poll? Don’t get me wrong, I know client feedback is important, but you won’t research yourself to success in the market.

(It’s time for my disclaimer… I’m not talking about Research and Development. R&D requires research and testing. I’m talking about B2B and Consumer marketing of existing products and services.)

Consider this novel approach. If your ads are working, celebrate and run more. If they don’t work, pull them and do something else.

Remember the Geico caveman commercials? I know people who loved those caveman spots and I know others that hated them. But I’m guessing the cavemen did well for Geico, until over-educated over-paid Hollywood executives looked at the data, added ridiculous amounts of research, and determined that a TV show with the cavemen would be successful. Wrong again! Maybe they asked the wrong people.



Principal 1: Research won’t guarantee success.

Principal 2: Spend your money reaching your audience not researching them.

Principal 3: Just because something works once, doesn’t mean that it will work again.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Genius of Ben Franklin

“I guess I don’t so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.”

Before anyone gets mad at me for picking on fat people, you must remember that you are not mad at me, you are mad at Ben Franklin – he said it not me. Besides, there is a concept in that quote. (Ben could have been an ad guy.)

Here’s the point. Some things are within your control – others are not. Everything changes, but how you respond to change is up to you. You can get depressed, worried, frustrated or you can choose to embrace it. Where would we be without change? Change creates opportunity.

I can’t help but think about the demise of the one-hour photo mat. Couldn’t they see it coming? It’s not like the “Digital Age” just snuck up on them. But some refused to change and one by one they closed. It could be said, that digital photography was a business killer. It could also be said that it opened the door to endless possibilities like selling photo printers and paper, photo sharing websites, memory cards, electronic picture frames, etc. The the list goes on and on and continues to grow.

Maybe you are sitting passively by as change controls your business. Maybe your business is “getting fat”. Maybe Ben said it best when he said,
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”


Principal 1: Planning and preparation won’t control the future.

Principal 2: Adapt or Die.
Principal 3: Every change creates new opportunity. Do something with it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Human Crash Test Dummies

Not every idea is a good idea. Some are just plain stupid. Others need refining. But there are a few that are brilliant. They change culture. They shape history. They endure.

Most of the best ideas seem so obvious, they leave people asking themselves, “Why didn’t I think of that?” The truth is you might have thought of it first, and made the mistake of seeking the opinion of someone who told you it would never work, or you may have lacked the conviction to pursue it.

Take the history of flight for example, I’m sure it wasn’t too difficult to see a bird gracefully soaring through the sky and think; “It would be great if we could fly like that.” The next step is critical. There are some who would craft a pair of wings, attach feathers and jump off a cliff. They most likely died. They are what I like to call human crash test dummies. Their goal is to be first, at all costs. Others like DaVinci thought about it, but never strapped on a pair of wings.

In business, perception is more important than fact. You don’t have to be first to market to be successful, but you want to own mindshare. Let’s play a game. After the Wright Brothers’ historic flight, who broke their record? I don’t know either. OK, let’s try this one. What is the name of the world's leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft combined? Did you guess Boeing? Good.

I’m sure most people throughout time said, “We are not birds. We will never fly.” Fortunately they were wrong too. Some great ideas just need the right timing to be successful. Learn from the dummies that tried and failed. The Wright Brothers learned and even succeeded in their quest to fly. But the good news is their success was not the end. It was only the beginning.



Principal 1: Perception in the market is more important than being first.

Principal 2: There is a difference between a fad and a trend. Pursue the trend.

Principal 3: Market timing is critical to the success of your business. If you are too early or too late, you may fail even if the idea is good.