Small Business – Stop Time Telling and Start Clock Building

builttolastSome business books just stick with you.

Jim Collins wrote Built to Last in 1994.  He followed it up with Good to Great, which is even better.

If you are starting a business and have Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs, as Collins calls them), get these two books and plow through them.

So what does being a Time Teller mean?

It means that you are building and running your company around you and not creating something that can last.

You are the sun of your solar system, Helios, all powerful and all-knowing.

Only you can tell others what time it is, what needs to be done, who needs to do it.

All decisions and strategies must pass through you, because you are the font of all wisdom.


If you are in business to stay in business and create value, then it’s time to build a clock.  A clock that everyone can rely on, so you can tell the time no matter who is around.

It will not be easy.

It requires, thinking, planning and executing.

And snapping out of a dream-like state of existence that it is ALL ABOUT YOU.

In this whole personal branding, everyone is self-employed, you-are-on-your-own-now, world of ours, we are getting sucked into the insane notion that we can do it ALL ON OUR OWN.

But I reach out!

I have “conversations”!

I ask for help!

I’m not a Time Teller.


You want to cut a deal with a big player, who could take your company to the next level, and you don’t want to bring the guy who created the relationship (and knows their business better than you), to the meeting?

Time Teller.

You say you have a potential $100 million business and you don’t want to create any policies or procedures or clearly defined roles and responsibilities for your ever-increasing payroll?

Time Teller.

You think your company can grow without hiring people smarter than you?

Time Teller.

You think you can do a handshake deal that puts your entire company at risk?

Time Teller.

People want to be inspired.  And they want their work to provide some of that inspiration.  And nothing gets people more pumped up than feeling like they are a part of something that is worthwhile and moving in unison.  Time Tellers create the worst culture imaginable because no one ever truly knows what is going on.  No one knows what time it is until the Time Teller tells them.

Don’t do it.  Don’t be a Time Teller.

Get  humble.  Get organized.  Get out of your head.

Get Swiss.

Build a clock.

Small Business Marketing: Try Lots of Things and Learn to Earn

img3_subservient_chickenThere is almost no limit to what you can do when in comes to marketing.

Throw on a chicken costume and take commands from web viewers.

Wear a T-Shirt every day of the year and charge people the privilege of sponsoring it.

Some things will work.

And some won’t.

The critical thing is that you learn from it.

Not learning is a sin and so is doing nothing.  At Waxpoetix and Big Head Design we have quite a few projects that come from avoiding the second sin.

At some point you just have to take action and go for it.  The planning, the strategizing, the thinking, all well and good, but you must have the chutzpah to actually go for it and maybe you’ll strike gold.

Chances are you won’t.  Marketing is tough.  But you’ll build up a list of failures or semi-failures that will help you to avoid defeat the next time.

It sounds so cliched to say, but it really is, well, not a marathon, but at least a half-marathon and not a sprint.

In a prior position I was shocked, truly shocked, when our company moved through The Dip and made it out the other side.  It would have been very easy to quit on our belief in what we were doing because it was a hell of a lot  harder than we thought to get clients on board.

We just didn’t understand why they were not responding to what we had to offer.  We thought it all made so much sense and our marketing pieces were spot on, we were all motivated and fired up.  The problem was they were not listening to us.  They were talking to and listening to each other.

Once we understood the dynamic at play, that influencers within the peer group were swaying decision-making, we went after the influencers double-time.

We invited them on our board, we wined and dined and we made some special trips to show them our love.

In the end it paid off, but it took a lot of faith and effort and the willingness to ride the learning curve.

If we had done nothing, nothing would have happened.

That’s damn obvious.

But we were willing to stick with it and go through the pain of learning

Ben Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”

And after the pain, you can make some money.

Get cialis

godzilla-002A cold killed all the dinosaurs.

Everyone thought it was a meteor, a one-time event that changed the world instantly.

But it was a simple, slow-moving contagion that worked its way through all of them until they finally succumbed.

It seems that the dinosaurs (the species known as Adus Interruptus) didn’t think that you could be trusted to know what you want.

That you needed to be told what to do.

What to say.

Who to be.

The dinosaurs thought your friends didn’t  matter and that your opinions didn’t count.

They didn’t respect your time or what you cared about most.

They only wanted one thing.

To stop you dead in your tracks.

And prevent you from thinking, or listening or sharing a moment.

And because the dinosaurs didn’t trust you, Trust came back and bit them in the ass.

As people started trusting themselves and their friends, Adus Interruptus began dying off in huge numbers.

They left Times Square, they moved out of airports, malls and grocery stores.

They disappeared from television, radio, the web.

The trust virus, a simple, elegant collection of ideas that replicated itself in the minds of ordinary people, took down the biggest, baddest players on the planet.

And ain’t it a better world for it.

Purple Cow Pancakes

daddycakes_label-sm“Something remarkable is worth talking about.  Worth noticing.  Exceptional.  New. Interesting.  It’s a Purple Cow.  Boring stuff is invisible.  It’s a brown cow.”

from Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, by marketing guru Seth Godin

“I’m starting a pancake mix business,” is a statement you are 99.99% guaranteed never to hear in your lifetime.

But that’s exactly what the wives of brothers Dan Byers and Levi Silva heard in 2007 when they decided to turn a family food feud into a business.

Byers, who lives in Newport Beach, and Colorado-based Silva, shared a family ritual of making pancakes for their kids which, over time, grew into a rivalry over whose were best.

Like most good startups, they simply began by creating a product for themselves, but soon discovered how enriching the experience was and what it meant to their families and friends.

Discussions soon revolved around the pancakes.

Family members asked about them.

Friends asked too.

Their pancakes had become remarkable.

But could they be a business?

The short answer so far is yes and you can learn more about Daddy Cakes here.

Smart marketing has helped.

The name, Daddy Cakes, is clever.

They’ve got a genuine story to tell.

They positioned themselves up-market.  For example, they use real fruit in their Sensuous Strawberry Seduction mix and make the Bountiful Buckwheat Buttermilk mix 100% organic.  They strive to use what they say are “the best ingredients”.

The packaging is fun and they researched the color scheme.  They include a small toy in every tin.  They go to stores and make pancakes for shoppers.  They respond to emails by bloggers.  They have a great PR person. They have an online presence, with a blog and engage in social networking at Facebook and Twitter.  They’ve gotten good press and built some word of mouth.

In short, around here at least, they are the Purple Cow of pancakes.

And if Seth Godin is right, that should lead them to achieve spectacular growth.

Time will tell.

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Small Business Challenges

hamlet-v2-posterTo be.

Or not to be.

That is the question.

And once it is answered in the affirmative, then suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune no longer matter.

Just do it.

There’s your Shakespeare.

So what do you do when it comes to marketing your small business against a sea of troubles?

Three things: get real, get digital and get friendly.

1.  Get Real.

Forget the past and forget what you think works, especially when it comes to advertising.  If you are advertising in print, for example you really need to  know who is seeing your ad.  Ask you ad sales rep what their distribution is and make him prove it to you.  I don’t care what he SAYS to you, make him prove it.  And forget pass-along readership, it’s one of the biggest myths going in print advertising.  Unless it is extremely targeted, dump it.

Get a new plan together.  That’s what marketing is after all – the overall mix of activities you engage in to get customers.  Advertising is a part of that and I see many small businesses in Orange County still doing the same thing they have been doing for years.  Jeez guys, the game has changed! ….which leads to…

2.  Get Digital.

It sounds strange to say this but there are just a lot of small businesses out there that are doing close to nothing online.  We are so immersed in it at Waxpoetix and Big Head Design, that we are truly shocked when we meet with prospective clients and see how little they are taking advantage of the cheap and simple tools available to them online. Email marketing, for example, may seem a bit dated to us marketing folks, but it is still very effective for ramping up a new program for a business that had nothing prior.  Constant Contact, for example,  is going to start seminars in Orange County soon and Mail Chimp can help you out as well.  We also work closely with Promoterz, which is more of a customer experience tool that also captures some good data than can help you improve customer service.

3.  Get Friendly.

We say it all the time here.  You gotta make friends!  We have more partnerships than we can shake a stick at.  So many that we think we are going to form a consortium soon and build an entire new business around that.  Getting online, as stated above, helps too because of the speed at which you can network on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook, to name a few.  Time to get close to those good customers.  That ‘s killer marketing.  Staying tight with the influencers and your most loyal clientele.  They will get you word of mouth and they will stay with you in times like these.

So take arms against a sea of troubles!

For when you have shuffled off this mortal coil, you don’t want to look back and say….Damn! I should have used Twitter…

Recession Marketing: Get Me Christian Bale

christian_bale_01I heard it. (Warning: graphic language)

You heard it.

And everyone is weighing in on it.

When Christian Bale’s rant on the set of Terminator Salvation was released yesterday, it set off a slew of responses with most saying the guy is out of control, a bully, abusive and probably in need of therapy.


Can’t agree more.

Let’s see…Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Balmer, Mark Cuban, Donald Trump…should I keep going?

Haven’t these billionaires been described with at least one of those qualities?

What makes Bale’s rant so shocking is the unfiltered expression of his feelings and his willingness to break through the social norms of polite and expected behavior to communicate it.

We’ve all worked with or known the yellers and screamers.  And yes they are jerks.  But many of them are exceptional precisely because they feel so deeply or are a little unhinged about what they do.

So what?

Who wants to be around passionless, unimaginative drones?

Find yourself someone who feels deeply about what they are doing and harness and channel that energy into something productive.

This economic mess we are in is getting worse by the minute.  This is not the time to be half-assing it.

If you are not busting down the door every day to create value for your customers, listening to their needs, communicating with your team, you will not make it.

I am in the same boat with you.

Having a small marketing firm in Orange County, California is not a bed of roses these days.

But give me a tenth of Christian Bale’s passion and it will fuel our team.

It’s really not a big deal to swear and scream if you are committed to winning and creating something great.

Bullies destroy and create nothing.

Winners build and leave behind a legacy of success.

And sometimes they yell along the way.