Archive for November, 2008

“Thank and Grow Rich”

November 26, 2008

Remember the classic little book, Think and Grow Rich?  I was reading an ezine today in which Rebecca Fine used this subtle twist on that title — Thank and Grow Rich.  Isn’t that a great thought?  Do you think you really could “thank” your way to growing rich?

It seems our ability to express gratitude is much like a muscle.  The more we use and exercise it, the easier it becomes – and the more we find ourselves just naturally sharing gratitude.  Try it out for a week or two.  Show sincere appreciation to everyone who comes in your path.  The waitress who re-fills your water glass, the mailman who brings a package to your door, the dry-cleaning attendant who hands you your shirts, and the speaker who just inspired you with her message.  And yes, we know that expressed gratitude does tend to return to us, multiplied.

Exercise your gratitude muscle – and lets all get a little “richer” in 09.

Advertisements

I’m Struggling – How Can I Help You?

November 25, 2008

USA Today reports that companies across the country are slashing bonuses, severance packages and pay raises.  40% of surveyed companies plan to reduce the amount allotted for raises in 09 and 62% say they will be giving smaller bonuses than last year.  The number of companies holding holiday parties is the lowest in reportable history.  American Express just canceled its annual year-end bash.  Companies that normally avoid any layoffs are now compiling lists of who will be let go.  Last Friday Focus on the Family announced they are eliminating 202 jobs, the biggest layoff in their history. 

But here’s the unexpected twist.  Many charities are seeing an increase in generosity.  In Seattle, Boeing Co. employees tripled their cash donations this year to Northwest Harvest, operator of Washington’s largest food bank. And every week, Northwest Harvest spokeswoman Claire Acey says, companies are calling to say their employees have decided to skip their holiday party and buy food for the hungry instead.  History shows that the stock market has a relatively small impact on charitable giving.  World Vision is predicting that 2008 could actually be a better-than-usual Christmas for the nation’s charitable organizations.

Justin Greeves, VP of Harris Interactive (a giving tracking organization) says that “in a year when people are having trouble meeting basic needs, giving by individuals usually increases.”   Companies decide that instead of a lavish party, they’ll help those in need.  Families decide that instead of more electronic toys, they’ll group their funds and give a charitable gift to another family in where perhaps there has been a job loss. 

It appears that if we have too much, we become greedy and hoarders.  If we are struggling ourselves, we seem to be more willing to share what little we do have.  Maybe this will be a good year after all.

Vending — an easy $15-20K a year?

November 23, 2008

Here’s an honest question from a 48 Days reader:

I have come across an opportunity to buy 100 bubble gum machines (4 tall spiral and many double headed) for $17k. They bring in around 15k-20k a year.  I have never bought anything like this, can you please give any advicbubble-gum-machinee you may have and if this is a good investment and what other questions I should ask the seller.  Thank you so much..I didn’t know who else to turn to.

Michelle,

I commend you on thinking about a business of your own.  However, getting these machines at a good price is the easy part.  The ONLY thing that matters is whether you can get them set up in good locations.  Believe me, the machines don’t “bring in around 15k-20k a year.”  They bring in zero unless you have them in killer locations.

Don’t even think about buying any machines until you’ve talked with 20 places where you could potentially put them.  You’re going to find that you cannot put them in most retail or franchise locations.  Any hospital or university will already have a contract in place for all their vending machines.  That means then that you’re looking at Mom and Pop small businesses – where it’s questionable if they have enough traffic to make it work.  Don’t do anything until you secure 10 agreements to place the machines.  Once you’ve done your work on that end you’ll have a lot better sense of what the vending business is all about.    

I love the vending business – many of my most profitable products are essentially “electronic vending” — but  you have to do your homework to make it work.

How do I launch a magazine?

November 21, 2008

This week a reader asked, “How do I launch a magazine?”  I have watched countless people with good hearts and intentions launch magazines, using borrowed family and friends’ money, only to lose it all and fade from view six months later.

There are three legs to any successful magazine.

  1. Ad Sales.  This is the biggie – look at O magazine.  It’s 80% ads.
  2. Newstand Sales.  Yes it’s challenging to get into the big racks at Barnes & Noble but without this, you will not likely survive.
  3. Subscription Sales.  If you think you can just sell ads and then give your magazine away you have reduced yourself to only one of these three legs.  With the rising cost of ink, paper and postage you have a very questionable business plan. 

I know there is a lot of appeal to having a great magazine on parenting, marriage, gourmet food or Cocker Spaniels.  But don’t let your emotions get ahead of creating a good business plan.

I Wasn’t Losing……..

November 18, 2008

Yesterday morning I saw Ted Turner being interviewed on CNN.  The interviewer asked Ted how he kept going when his sailing team lost year after year and his baseball team was in last place for four years before going on to win the World Series.  Without any hesitation Ted said, “I wasn’t losing, I was learning how to win.” 

How’s that for a different approach to the situations we are all confronted with?  If you’re in a job you hate, has that time been a waste or was it necessary for you to clarify what you really want to be doing?  If you just had a business failure, have you lost “everything” or do you now know more about winning in business than you ever have?  If your marriage is on the rocks are you losing or “learning how to win” in that important relationship? 

It seems that I hear from a lot of people who are convinced they have wasted years of their lives pursuing the wrong career, sticking with the wrong job, or getting the wrong degree.  Would you really have been able to discover the right career or job without that first experience?  Maybe we just need to “re-frame” some of our experiences.  Trust me, it feels better to know that I am “learning how to win” than to think that I have spent time only to “lose.”  Don’t get used to losing – it doesn’t have to endure forever.  Even the sluggard college student eventually graduates.  Mark your graduation date now and move on. 

So if you just got fired, believe that you were “learning how to win.”  If you bombed on your golf game this weekend, understand that you were “learning how to win.”  If you hit your thumb with a hammer, think that you were “learning how to win.”  If last week’s receipts for your business were $300 and your expenses were $500, believe that you were “learning how to win.”

Serving Customers or Making Cars?

November 11, 2008

There seems to be a subtle shift that takes place in the history of most businesses.  Let’s say Barney was a cave man who made great wagons.  But there are only 20 people who live in his known world so as soon as he makes 20 wagons he’s out of business.  If he can’t imagine using his skills for anything but wagon-making we might then see him sneaking around at night burning the wagons to rekindle demand.  Or the town witch doctor knows he would not be needed if everyone were healthy.  So he “creates” illnesses to keep his patients coming back rather than attempting to help them find ultimate health.

Now fast forward to 2008 in America – same deal.  We have auto manufacturers who can’t risk making a car that really lasts – they need 5-year obsolescence.  Parts that wear out and systems that malfunction are a necessary component of keeping the machine of making cars in place.  It would be self-defeating to make a car that semi-permanently met the customer’s needs.  You have to hope the customer doesn’t stay happy with their purchase for too long. 

Do you really think we aren’t smart enough to make a lightbulb that would last essentially forever?  But what would that do to the sales of lightbulbs?  

What if a counselor or chiropractor really helped every client they saw?  Got them to a point of healthy functioning on their own?  How would he/she pay the mortgage the next month?  Keeping people dependent on their services may become more important than seeing them get better. 

If you realize your “work” is more dependent on keeping a system in place than on meeting the real needs of your customers, you are indeed vulnerable.   Real estate developers, publishing houses, record labels, auto manufacturing and “investment” firms are all suffering in their attempts to keep systems in place rather than responding to the changes in demand of the marketplace.

What we need are new ways to engage our creative skills; not government support to allow us to keep doing what no longer works. 

mercedes-500-sl 

I happen to be a car enthusiast, but I think it’s a joke that someone “decided” we needed new models every calendar year?  My primary car is a 1991 Mercedes 500SL – it’s 18 years old!  It looks great, has great styling and is fun to drive.  I’d love to see a 5-year car – where nothing changed for at least 5 years, or even 10.  Can you imagine the streamlining of parts and service, and the reduced waste from excessive manufacturing?

Now – what are you doing in your work or business to make sure you are serving your customer’s needs, even if those needs change?

Network Marketing — Good or Bad?

November 7, 2008

A reader recently asked, “Dan, what do you think of the concept of network marketing if the product is great and the training is exceptional?”

Well let me ask you this.  If I told you the new Ferrari 612 Scaglietti has exceptional safety features, rollover ratings, great re-sale value, above average fuel efficiency and sells for only $312,088 – would you run out and buy one?   Obviously there are other considerations, such as your driving interests and financial position, as there are in this reader’s question.  The primary issue is not is it a great company, with a great product and exceptional training – but rather, is the business model itself a “fit” for you?

If you are a natural cheerleader, always breaking the silence in the elevator, schmoozing at parties, inviting 40 friends over for a good time, and won first prize in your college debate class then you are probably a candidate for network marketing.  On the other hand, if you are reticent and shy, preferring to work with ideas rather than people and you get nauseous at the idea of standing up as a first time visitor in a new church, then this business model would be a total flop for you.  It doesn’t matter how great the products and the training are – it’s not a match.

You may be somewhere in between these two extremes, but the critical issue always is to choose a business model that “fits” what you already know about yourself.  Incidentally, I hope it’s a “fit” for you to grab this new Ferrari. ferrari-612

Don’t be one of the “Hodo Zoho”

November 4, 2008

Here’s a new phenomenon we are seeing in Japan.  Young professionals are turning down “promotions” because they want a life in addition to their work.  Civil service workers are choosing not to take career-advancing exams and thousands of IT workers are looking to switch to less demanding positions.  The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (once the goal of many elite workers) now says only 14% of the eligible employees took high level exams for management positions in 2007 – down from 40% thirty years ago. 

The “hodo-hodo zohu” translates roughly to the “so-so folks.”  Before you jump to conclusions about this new “slacker generation” please remember there is another term that has been very popular in Japan in the last 20 years as they have gained business and economic prominence.  That term is “karoshi” and it means “death from overwork.”  There have been cases of 30 and 40-yr olds who have died at their desks after weeks and months of 14 hour days, seven days a week in their attempts to climb the corporate and financial ladder.

So where’s the balance here?  If you turn down a promotion you will be seen as a “slacker” and similar to the “hodo-hodo zohu.”  If you work 70 hours a week you may be risking “karoshi.” 

We all have 168 hours a week – no more, no less.  If you sleep 8 hours a night and work 70 hours a week you are left with 42 hours – or 6 hours a day.  That has to cover your investment of time in your physical, social, parenting and marital, spiritual and personal development areas.  If you are the “average” American you are also watching 2.6 hours of TV every day.  That drops the time down to 3.4 hours for all those important life areas. 

I trust it’s clear there won’t be much success in any of those areas with that little time invested.   Don’t compromise the success you want physically, spiritually, in your marriage and your family by having it dry up from lack of attention. 

Okay – what are you if you have it all together — you’re already standing out from the crowd?  My Japanese is pretty weak so let’s just go with:  “Urfulealive”