Category Archives: Marketing & Sales

Learn To Audit Yourself, Just Do You

I’ve been following @GaryVee for awhile now. Great guy. Lot of energy. A great role model in some respects and not in others. A wonderful “virtual mentor”.

I just watched a video of him talking to a group of students at a USC entrepreneur class. He started of by saying that he believes 100%, with no hedge, that you can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur.

His best piece of advice…

Audit Who You Are

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can be something that you can’t. Be you. Just do you. Bet on your strengths. Don’t worry at all about your weaknesses.

He goes on to talk about how he had a huge advantage because he was born in Belarus and was poor growing up in the U.S. He had it rough and he honestly believes most people are just too soft to compete with him. This is an honest truth we all need to accept.

Nothing more important then starting right now. Yesterday is always the best day to start.

True entrepreneurs work 16 hour days. True entrepreneurs go and get it done. True entrepreneurs execute the idea. True entrepreneurs hire out their weaknesses.

At the end of the day you just need to do you. Know yourself. What are your strengths? Ask yourself that every day. Be brutally honest. What are your strengths? Don’t just think about what they are. Write them down. Then stare at the page and ask yourself again. Ask your friends, family, colleagues what your strengths are. Maybe you are missing some strength cause it is so easy for you to do it, but that same strength is hard and doesn’t come naturally to a lot of other people. Maybe you are blind to it. Maybe you wrote something down that you think is a strength but most people would see it as a weakness.

Keep doing that. Think, Write, Get Feedback, Meditate, Repeat.

Don’t underestimate speed. Speed is a huge competitive advantage. Speed goes along with the idea of starting yesterday. Stay ahead of the game.

All that matters is the attention graph. All platforms will be media companies. Be a thought leader. Not a thought follower. Be on top of everything. Out work everyone. Don’t call yourself an expert. Just be the expert.

Your grandmother is on facebook now. What is next. Look at what companies Facebook is buying… Instagram, Snapchat, stay ahead of the game…

Fastest growth on Instagram is 40-50 year old women taking #selfies. No joke.

Keep asking, what is next, and be there…

Also posted in Business Advice, Career Advice, Entrepreneur, Technology, Work Advice Tagged , , |

Best Back Office Software for Small Businesses (Accounting, Payroll, Benefits, Email Marketing and More)

Ever since Square came onto the playing field a few years ago everyone has been developing great apps to help small businesses get up and running. Many new business owners have no idea where to start and often feel like they need to spend money on expensive advisers such as accountants and lawyers to get anything going. As time goes on SaaS (Software as a Service) just keeps getting better and better.

Credit Card Processing

Square started in 2009 and pretty much led the pack as far as a startup company that was helping small businesses. It was an easy way for cash only businesses to be able to allow customers to use credit cards without going through the hassle and complexity of typical merchant processing solutions. I was really amazed the first time I saw a food trucker swipe my card through their phone. Pure Crazy. Pure Awesomeness. Growth Hackers has a great write up about the value proposition of the company and why Square grew so fast.

Online Accounting

The advantages to online accounting are many, but perhaps the most important reason to have online accounting is backup and disaster recovery. If all your books are on a desktop computer and you don’t back them up anywhere you could be in a world of hurt after something happens. If everything is online you just log on to a new computer and get going again.

Quickbooks is of course the golden standard for small business accounting, but many new players are coming into the field including Xero, their closest competitor as far as market share goes.

Expense Reports

I think Expensify is the best thing out there since sliced bread. It was just a matter of time before someone said, “Hey, we can take pictures of our receipts with our phones, and use technology to scan them into a database and forget about all that dumb manual entry stuff.” In my previous business I spent a lot of time sending my accountant pictures of my receipts, and I am not actually completely sure whether he used this or manually entered it. I imagine he did it manually. For $5 a month this is a complete no brainer must have.


I am currently helping someone start up a restaurant and one of things she was most worried about was doing payroll. She found service to do it for $65/month which involved sending paperwork and other essentials to this company. I advised her by saying that payroll is fairly easy and we should do it ourselves because it is a very critical aspect of the business to keep an eye on.

Well here I go surfing the internet and find a great little company called ZenPayroll that would require about the same amount of work or less to outsource it and it only costs $25/month. Plus the cool thing is that employees can “onboard” themselves. This means instead of having them fill out paperwork and then reentering all their info they just go online in the first place to enter their information. Genius! Let’s go paperless baby!


With the new Affordable Health Care Act everyone is scrambling to get in line with the new laws and regulations. Many companies are deciding not to hire simply to stay below the threshold that requires you to pay health insurance for your employees. Along comes a company called Zenefits that makes the whole benefits sign up pain and hassle free and does it completely free because their benefit providers pay them commissions to keep the lights on. I think it is a win, win, win situation for everyone and worth checking out.

CRM (Customer Relation Management)

If you have clients, you need a good CRM system. End of story. I used to have a manila folder system that worked well for me, but I had a limited number of potential clients (schools), and I used calendar reminders to follow up. I guarantee you my lack of a decent CRM program caused many opportunities to fall through the cracks. I read on Forbes that having a CRM increases sales by 29%. This probably is completely random statistic but I am sure the better organized you are the better.

Surprisngly there are about a billion CRM solutions out because presumbly everyone thinks they can build and awesome database. Well most people are completely wrong. I searched around and can’t really recommend any particular one, but Capterra came up with 9 cheap and easy to use CRM solutions that can work for you.

Social Media Analytics

The only reason I found out about SumAll is because they have Square integration. That is pretty important if you are running Square. If not, the service is still free to connect social media analyatics with your sales number.

Like CRM, there are a ton of options when it comes to managing your social media. Hootsuite is free and is probably the best one to use if you are just getting started. You can see all of your feeds and post to all of your social networks at once. But the real magic happens when you setup your software to automate you posts.

Email Marketing

I save this one for last because it might be the most important thing you can do for your business. If you aren’t capturing emails of customers these days then you simply aren’t doing the business the way you should. All I hear from the marketing gurus online is that email marketing is where the money is it. And you know what? It is very true.

At the end of the day a customer might need contacted or touched in some way a total of 7 times on average before they buy from you. This is new customer acquisition but the same goes for encouraging repeat sales. Good copy makes people buy, and you can never get that copy in front of people without an email list. Speaking of copywriting, if you have no clue what it is, then stop everything you are doing right now and google it! It is that important!

Again, there are many programs out there to setup email campaigns but Aweber seems to be the best overall pick of the bunch. It helps that they are one of the oldest of the bunch as well.

Also posted in Business Advice, Entrepreneur Tagged , , , |

Marcus Lemonis Speech at Inc 5000

I have spent a lot of time trying to find out more about Marcus Lemonis’ personal story. Finally I found a speech he gave to an Inc 5000 conference. They titled it…

Meet the Business Turnaround King Marcus Lemonis

The key question I wanted answered was how did he even start Camping World. The usual snippet story is that he was an orphan from Lebanon who became the son of someone who was in the car business. His extended family owned a rather big car business, and that Lee Iaccoca was a family friend. Presumably this story makes it sound like his family helped him out a ton.

Listening to him tell his story you quickly realize that his family only indirectly was responsible for his success. The real story is that he ran for a Democratic office when he came back from college and his grandfather was a Republican so for embarrassing the family he fired him and wished him luck.

He eventually did lose the election but someone told him that if he ever wanted a job he should give him a call. That person I believe was Wayne Huizenga, owner of AutoNation. If it wasn’t Wayne himself, he eventually connected with Wayne.

They eventually asked him if he wanted a promotion and he said yes, of course. They requested that he help them buy his grandfather’s car business. He eventually pulled it off, and was additionally told to fire all the slackers. He pulled that off too and eventually let slip in his story that he made it to a point where he was pulling in $900k a year in the car business!

Wikipedia puts it this way…

“Starting in 1997, Lemonis held several sales and managerial roles for AutoNation.[1] From June 2001 to February 2003 he served as CEO of Holiday RV Superstores Inc. Following that, he co-founded a company called FreedomRoads and began acquiring RV dealerships.[2] In 2006, the company merged with Camping World with Lemonis as CEO, then in 2011, merged with Good Sam Enterprises, Lemonis again at the helm.[3] Lemonis attributes Camping World and Good Sam’s success to the three P’s: people, process and product.[4]” Source: Wikipedia)

2003 to 2005 was a very intense period for Marcus. He pooled his own money with some other investors to start the company Freedom Roads, Inc., then used $400 million in bank loans to speed up acquisition and consolidation…

“So, in 2003, Mr. Lemonis pooled his money with funds from several investors and started buying up dealerships, consolidating them under one banner — a practice he says helped “legitimize” the industry.

The idea was to make RV lots look more like car dealerships, such as Florida-based AutoNation, where he worked from 1997 to 2001, rising to regional manager in charge of 65 stores in 11 states by age 27.

Using multiple bank loans, Freedom Roads spent $400 million in June to expand inventory at all its dealerships and push the company to the $2-billion mark in annual sales. It’s now at $1.4 billion.” (Source)

Pretty much the main conclusion I can come to is that the old sayings go with business. “It’s not what you know, its who you know.” “It takes money to make money”. My own saying is,… “If you wanna play with the big boys, you gotta join the big boys club.”

Marcus certainly learned many lessons on the road to success. His success at AutoNation bred more success and each experience helped feed the next. The key in his life was getting noticed by the right people. Some would call him lucky, but he himself says that he is simply blessed.

Also posted in Business Advice, Entrepreneur, Investing Tagged , |

Marcus Lemonis The Profit and My Desire to be an Entrepreneur

If you haven’t seen the CNBC show “The Profit” then you absolutely must. Marcus Lemonis is a business genius and he is learning and becoming smarter every single day with every single new deal he makes. The show’s basic premise is that Marcus comes and visits a potential business and determines if he can make a deal with the owners to become and active investor in the company and teach them how to become very profitable.

Since discovering this show I have absolutely fallen in love with it. This guy actually has my dream job. Part of the reason I chose the jobs that I did over the years was to expose myself to multiple different industries. To learn how they work, and to satisfy my deep curiosity for how a variety of businesses operate and become successful.

My dad is a sales guy through and through. He left the coal mines to strike out on his own because he just couldn’t take being in the mines anymore. He wanted to determine his destiny and knew the sales path was it. As long as he believed in the product he knew he could sale it. Recently one of my dad’s friends mentioned that my dad could sell ice to an eskimo. It is kind of a compliment to someone’s sales ability to say that, but I know my dad could never really sell anything he didn’t believe in and people respect him for it and trust him deeply.

Since I was a teenager I have been influenced by my dad immensely and have sought out other experienced business men and women that I could learn from. If I wasn’t making connections with business owners I was reading about them. I’ve read business classics such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason to more modern books such as The Millionaire Next Door, and hundreds if not thousands of others. For all intensive purposes I am one of the world’s experts on business without having ever actually started my own business. I say that not to puff myself up with pride, but to actually berate myself for waiting forever to start my own business to put all I know to the test.

The truth of the matter is that some people are just born to lead. They have to do their own thing. They must be in charge and they must determine their destiny. And most importantly, they must be in control.

That is one of the constant themes in the show. These business owners are full of pride, both to their benefit and to their detriment, the classic double edged sword. Marcus himself is a so called “Type A” personality. Someone who needs to be in charge, and wants it done his way. As I watch the show I see it over and over again. Will the prideful business owner let their pride fall down and allow Marcus to call the shots, or will they let their pride keep them from turning their business into something really great?

Which brings up one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned in the business world. It is repeated in all the business literature over and over and yet I really don’t believe people really get it. The ability to lead is also the ability to follow. To learn to lead one must first learn how to follow. Over and over again it is repeated and falls on mostly deaf ears.

Marcus focuses on three things: people, process, and product. Out of the three, people is far and above the most important thing. Yet you can have great people and still get the product and process wrong. That is the opportunity Marcus looks for. The chance to work with great people and improve their product and process by investing his money into the business to change it for the better.

I think we can all recognize that people is the most important thing. Think about your years as an employee or even a business owner. Some of us have left great jobs that had horrible bosses. And some of us have stayed in horrible jobs because we worked for great people. Business owners number one complaint is that they can never find good people to work for them. And as my dad always said, “All business is people business”.

So where do we go from here? I am still thinking about why I haven’t started my own business. My excuse is that I haven’t found a good idea, but I have tons of ideas. Perhaps my excuse is that no idea is good enough. Or that I might be happier just being an employee. It has worked this long. Why not just keep progressing in my career, and keep jumping to different industries when I get bored?

Maybe my biggest fear is that I would get stuck in something I would come to hate. However, I do think that is just another excuse. I am trying to cross a bridge I haven’t even come to yet.

At the end of the day, I pretty much have no choice but to do it. I have spent the better part of my life, starting as a teenager, studying what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I am more prepared than practically any other business owner that starts a business. Another lesson is that a leader has a strong proclivity for action even without a lot of information to go on. I suffer from the classic “analysis paralysis” disease.

The time has never been more ripe then now. I just need to take the leap. Starting a business will certainly be the biggest personal development course I could ever take in my life. It will certainly be eye opening and help show me what I am really made of. It is my greatest challenge yet, and there really is nothing to it but to do it.

Also posted in Business Advice, Economics, Entrepreneur, Investing, Work Advice Tagged , , |

I’m Starting a New Business – Want to Follow Along?

I’ve decided to start a new online business. One that will hopefully provide me with a lot of case studies and other experience that I can write about here @

The business is called Lokolee and it will serve two purposes…

“We are crazy for local business. We give business listing and email marketing support to your local mom & pop businesses.”

This is the primary function of the website

All local businesses will be able to enjoy the benefits of free business listings. And they will be able to include any coupons or deals they are currently running too. Essentially will help market a company’s local coupons and/or local deals in a much more cost effective manner than any current competitor out there.

On the back end I will be partnering with a select few companies to help improve their web presence, and to give them excellent email marketing support. Online marketing campaigns can be both cost effective and achieve big results if they are done right. Unfortunately, many companies are doing it wrong, or not even attempting to do it at all.

Lokolee will provide a ton of free information about how a business can increase their online presence through our blogand newsletter. However, Lokolee members will receive one on one support and training to achieve even greater results.

Sometimes a few more sales every month is what will make or break a business. And one of the best ways to increase sales is to strengthen your marketing efforts. Online marketing is a big piece of that, and getting bigger every day. It is wise to do what you can to help make your business a great one!

Also posted in Blogging, Business Advice, Entrepreneur, Investing, Lokolee, Writing Tagged , , , , , |

More Businesses Should Innovate Like China

This may offend some people, but I don’t know how important intellectual property is these days. Or even if it ever was that important…

You invent a product, design, process, etc. and spend a lot of time and money getting it patented. Then you make a few bucks on it, and if it is even remotely successful, you have to spend a whole lot more time and money to protect your patent.

Meanwhile, people who make and market a slightly different product are making a killing without all the extra costs. They are producing it faster and cheaper then you ever could. It’s the continuing story of business everywhere… “Inventors make the product, Distributors make the the profit.” Just think of Amazon or Ebay…

This story is really playing out in China…

I just read an article over @ Sovereign Man entitled “Can Your IPhone Do This?“. It talks about how China continues to take technology and make it better….

Direct Quote: “This is a central theme among Asia’s technology developers. They start with a basic idea (like supercomputers, military aircraft, or mobile phones), analyze what the foreign companies are doing well, figure out how to make it better, and eliminate any dependency on western suppliers.”

Some of the best products are made from people who don’t care about gaining a patent and maximizing the profit they can ring out of it. Think Open Office, the free option that replaces Microsoft Office…

If you have a business that innovates you should definitely be watching the news on China and take some pointers from them. Whether you like it or not, the profits will flow to those who keep producing. Not those who rest on their laurels…

Also posted in Business Advice, China, Economics, Technology Tagged , , , , |

How Do You Know When To Cut Your Losses?

How do you know when to cut your losses?

When your exit strategy says so…

Oh, you didn’t make an exit strategy when you got into it?

Better start making an exit strategy for all plans and projects in the future…

How do you make an exit strategy?

Decide what you are willing to lose ahead of time and put it in writing…

Is a 10% loss worth getting out, how about a 20% loss?

Learn how to count your intangibles too such as lost sleep, stress, and anything else that damages your health or well-being, or even intangibles such as your reputation.

It is wise to make the decision ahead of time, of when you will cut your losses. Because if you try to decide in the moment, your emotions will often get the best of you.

Don’t let a 100% loss fill you with regret…

Decide beforehand when you will cut your losses, make an exit strategy, and start getting some nice relaxing sleep at night.

Then execute your exit strategy with the confidence that you are making the right decision.

Also posted in Business Advice, Career Advice, Economics, Investing, Work Advice Tagged , , |

Great Product is the New Marketing

I’ve been trying to keep up to date about what everyone in the publishing industry is talking about…

So… here is a quick link to a good little article about how you need to let the product market itself and let your readers be your sales team.

I’ve seen this strategy work great in a lot of companies, including my current one, and I highly recommend it.

Great Product is the New Marketing


Also posted in Business Advice, Entrepreneur Tagged , |

Success in Business Just Might Require Giving Gifts

Seth Godin’s latest post is a great one.

The title is Generous Gifts vs. Free Samples

It gives a lot of food for thought…

A lot of learning that occurs in business and life occurs when you turn up the contrast and look at the differences in things.

Seth makes the point that giving away free samples is a great business marketing strategy and you often see a lot of sales occur from this strategy.

It is a give and take approach to life.

Yet Seth makes the argument well that giving a gift is something totally different.

A gift is something you give without receiving anything in return. And he argues that if you think this way about things it will change your whole approach to business and life.

…and it will change you.

Giving a gift is something that is very special, and it is to be much appreciated. If it is in your power to do so then maybe you should think about doing it.

Even if you don’t receive something in return (i.e. a sale or returning customer), receiving good will is not to be underestimated.

I’ll leave you will a quote I am very fond of….

“What Constitutes Success” by Bessie Stanley

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.”

Also posted in Business Advice, Career Advice, Entrepreneur, Philosophy, Work Advice Tagged , |

7 Thoughts on Ebooks vs. DTB’s

I’ve been spending hours upon hours researching this issue and these are my thoughts thus far…

For those that don’t know yet (i just learned this), DTB is the affectionate name some people have started calling physical paper book. The acronym stands for Dead Tree Books.

In any case, here are some of the things I’ve discovered.

1. My personal experience is that some of my favorite bloggers are releasing pdf books and making decent money from low volume, high profit sales. Seems to work as a business model although I doubt it is sustainable.

2. Joe Konrath is pretty much the evangelist for ebooks and his blog is the go to place for all things fiction and ebook related. Here is a good link to check out…

3. Fiction is the #1 thing selling on Kindle right now. Although this might change I think for the time being most ebook readers are leisure readers and they aren’t trying to learn something (i.e. non-fiction). Forget about the fact that a lot of non-fiction is entertainment and has nothing to do with learning. 😉

4. The market is growing and growing rapidly and Kindle is in a very good position to simply dominate the market. This means at least going with a Kindle version is worth thinking about.

5. Do you want to make money or build an audience? Do you want to reach the most people or just a few? Answering those questions should tell you how you will publish.

6. Any success in book writing will require you to keep producing. Your original book sales will peak and fall, and unless you have a true classic your sales will fall to a trickle. To do this full time you have to keep producing and I feel like that is easier to do when you are a fiction writer. 😉

7. This wouldn’t be complete without a 7th… No matter what you do, what platform you choose, you still have to be business savvy and know how to market yourself. There is a reason distributors make the lion’s share of revenue in the book business. They make the sales.

Once again, you decide whats important for you. Is it more important to be a writer or a marketer? High profit, low volume ebooks or low profit, high volume traditional books? Neither one if necessarily better and its best just to choose whats important for you.

Update: Good little link I just found at Wired magazine. Title : Amazon Sells More Ebooks Then Hardcovers…

Link on the Wall Street Jounal. Title : ‘Vanity’ Press Goes Digital

Last but not least, Cory Doctorow, and how he gives away his work for free… Free Download of his book “Makers”

Also posted in Blogging, Writing Tagged , , , |