Monday, September 24, 2007

Brand You 50

Tom Peters has written many great books and hosts an especially valuable web site and blog that I recommend you visit often for information and inspiration.

I noted with great interest that Tom has initiated a seminar series based on one of my favorite books of his called Brand You 50. This is the one business book I insist my startup clients and students read.

I call Brand You 50 'the book that can not be excerpted'. If you took out all the valuable stuff, you'd be left with the blank pages and copyright stuff.

This book was first published in 1999 during the precipitous rise in the economy, yet Tom used this work to focus not on big picture, meta stuff, but on the role individuals can and should play in their own commercial lives. If you haven't followed or read Tom before, you'll need to adjust to his writing style. Tom's free flow of street level wisdom will hook you.

The substance here is clear and demanding: you'd better matter. Quickly.

I believe the book was initially written for people working to advance their careers within organizations,. However, I make every one of my startup clients get this book and absorb it as early as possible in their emerging lives as entrepreneurs.

What's so valuable to me about this lesson in entrepreneurship is that you not only matter, you have to change the world. It will likely be in small incremental ways (or perhaps Ghandi-esque proportions), but you need to participate. We need you. You need to get in the game and help the world grow better.

Here's several pieces that I really think are clarion calls to entrepreneurship...

(On vanishing job security)... "My answer: Return to Job Security! (Not the answer you expected, I bet.) But it's New Job Security. Or, actually, Very Old New Job Security. It's what job security was all about before - long before -! Big Corp. Before Social Security. And unemployment insurance. Before there was a big so-called safety net that had the unintended consequence of sucking the initiative, drive, and moxie out of millions of white collar workers."

"I'm talking about job security in the Colonies and in the first century after our country was founded. Which was: Craft. Distinction. Networking skills."

"Craft = Marketable skill.
Distinction = Memorable.
Networking skills = Word of mouth collegial support."

"It's as old as the colonial blacksmith. (And his modern counterpart, the housepainter, or local CPA) As new as Hollywood. Or the peripatetic web programmer in San Francisco, or Austin, or Raleigh-Durham... or Tahiti."

"It's about being so damn good and meticulous and responsible about what you do (and making sure what you do is work that needs to be done) that the world taps a T1 speed path to you."

Bingo! Be responsible and authoritative about what you do and make sure what you do solves a real problem. There's an elevator pitch for entrepreneurship if I've ever heard one.

Let me take one more piece from Brand You 50 and hoist it up the flag as a shout out to everyone (and a flat out demand of my boomer peers!) to embrace and honor the entrepreneurial instincts within all of us...

"Master bootstrapping. From UPS to Marriott, most of the companies we most admire were founded on a shoestring. Literally: Less than a coupla thousand bucks."

"You don't need a silver (corporate or personal) spoon to sally forth. You do need passion, commitment, a few pals... and a Consuming Desire to take the next, usually wee step"


- you do have 'space'.

- You don't need 'permission'.

- You don't need 'power'.

- You don't need a 'big' task.

- You don't need money."

"Money kills (or at least it can). With big bucks, you're too soon beholden to the funder... which can prevent us from taking the truly WOW leaps. But mostly, history is on your (poverty stricken) side. Most cool stuff - products, and companies and revolutions - was started in basements and garages, for (literal) pennies. Sony, UPS, Marriott, Apple, HP, Pizza Hut, Microsoft, FedEx, etc."

"Consider: Imagine Ghandi's budget. He merely created Earth's Largest Democracy."

When I train or mentor new entrepreneurs virtually all have the desire to launch, but many are too ready to back away from barriers they have only assumed were there. These barriers are of our own making. In fact, as Tom Peters indicates, most barriers are resources to build on, seen from the right perspective.

Get this book by Tom Peters, then read all the rest he's written. Visit Tom's web site often. Go to the Brand You seminar if it lands near you.

If you need a book to inspire your entrepreneurship goals, Brand You 50 is it.

This is the renaissance age of entrepreneurship, and it's just beginning.

You are important to all of us. You are vital to all our futures. You belong in the world and you can make an entrepreneurial contribution that is compelling and valuable. Don't wait for a time when things are just right. Take your "WOW leap".

We need your contribution as an entrepreneur. Your time is NOW, friend.

Tom Peters web site

Friday, September 21, 2007

Want something good? Guy Kawasaki on evangelism

Even better, it's free.

The web seminar folks at WebEx have lined up Guy Kawasaki to do a presentation on the art of evangelism Next Tuesday Sept. 25 at 11 AM PDT - 1 PM CDT for my Great Lakes area startup friends.

For anyone who has worked with me on their startups or taken one of my courses they know that the main job of the entrepreneur is evangelizing.

It's a wonderful word and an even better day job.

The concept was likely around before Guy defined the role, but it's certainly never been the same since he helped bring the early Apple systems to life back in the day.

Birthing new enterprises and new products is the essence of entrepreneurship and there is no better evangelist drawing breath than Mr. Kawasaki.

This is free. Not sure if there is a limited registration, but I'd recommend registering ASAP.

As entrepreneurs, you'll be better off doing this than anything else you could put on your plate for that hour or so. I rarely say this, but, trust me on this one.

You need more Guy Kawasaki in your life and here's a great opportunity.

Guy Kawasaki's blog discussing this, with link to registration at WebEx

Friday, September 14, 2007

A great week

I had a wonderful week.

I taught the first of the online classes devoted to startups. It was a very enjoyable experience with a great group of entrepreneurial class members.

This was the initial 'Intro to Micro Enterprise' course, but one gentleman in the class was so enthusiastic he launched the next day. Set up his LLC, grabbed the domain name and lit the fuse. Very cool. I met with him for coffee today and his model looks great and we're going to work out his details through the coming courses.

These courses have limited enrollment but there are still open slots. Even though they are being taught through the WI Technical College System, you can take the courses from anywhere in the US. They are taught live, online using a toll free telephone line and the content is on the web. If you have an interest please eMail me for details and I'll help get you to where you need to go. You can also download course descriptions, dates and sign up details from the home page of the Business Diligence site.

I asked the first class to rate the value on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excellent and the average came out to be 9.6. Thanks to all the class members for a very exciting evening!

Another client launched commercially this week and took her first orders. Ring the bell! Congratulations Heirlooms Again! May the commercial winds be always at your back.

As the Friday work load wound down late this afternoon, and the phone and the eMails slowed, I took some time to watch the bird feeders out the office door at a more appreciative pace. The hummingbirds are gathering in Southern Wisconsin for their migration south. I inched myself closer and closer to their feeders over time until I got less than an arms length distant. They were squabbling with one another and flying so close to my face to check me out that my cheeks were cold from the beat of their wings.

In the background, the raucous sounds from a flock of Sandhill Cranes that live in the nearby marsh rose and fell in waves. Aldo Leopold described their calls as clangorous, a perfect word for a language that's been used by the cranes in some form for at least 9 million years. By comparison, humans have had language for no more than 300,000 years at best estimate. It makes you wonder how deep and primal the communication among cranes must be.

It also strikes me that clangorous is a pretty good word to describe entrepreneurship.

Much to ponder, much to celebrate. A great week.

Be well, friends.

Rick's entrepreneurship class info taught online through the WI Technical College System at WCTC. Join us!

Heirlooms Again

A good description of the hummingbirds' story
A good place for hummingbird science

Sandhill crane info from the Cornell Bird Center

The Aldo Leopold Center

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Entrepreneur and small business resource certification

The Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network (WEN) is a good organization in my state, working to focus resources where they are most needed in the world of entrepreneurship in Wisconsin.

I'm thankful to have recently received certification from WEN as a resource provider for our Wisconsin entrepreneurs and look forward to making a contribution to our new startups and small enterprises wherever I can.

Thanks WEN!

My resource page at Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network

Monday, September 03, 2007

Barbarians at the gate

Is this a bad time to start your own enterprise?

Are there things that could go wrong? Did you see the stock market last month? What if there's a recession, or interest rates wig out, or what if consumer confidence drops, or what if...?

My daughter and I went to a film festival debate/seminar a couple years ago that included Philip Gourevitch, one of my favorite writers (The New Yorker) and now Editor of The Paris Review. Mr. Gourevitch's writing about Africa is especially worth searching out.

Someone asked him about his fear of going forward given the chaos of the world.

He responded in a very unexpected and creative way, I thought. He said this:

"Barbarians have always been at the gate.

Barbarians will always be at the gate.

You just need to do what you do."

Both of my grandfathers started their own businesses. My Dad started his own business and my Mom worked for tech startups before that word was remotely fashionable. Computers in refrigerators stuff.

They all did it in times of significant chaos. My last start up (a manufacturing company) was launched right into the teeth the largest downturn in manufacturing since the Great Depression.

Times are always chaotic, for ever and ever, amen.

People have been creating new enterprises in times of apparent disorder and danger for millennia.

Guess what? Remember the opening question, 'Is this a bad time to risk starting your own enterprise?' The answer is, thankfully, yes.

If times are bad, then you have ready access to the key raw material for all startups… problems. If you can provide a real solution to a real problem, opportunity is limitless.

In a global economy this big, and this integrated (and this is just the start of the start of global integration), you can plug your new enterprise in easier than has ever been possible in the history of the world.

Your enterprise can be for-profit, non-profit, social entrepreneurship, screaming-cool high tech sprint, or a beautiful, slow-mo boomer launch. I don't care. If you want to create an enterprise to support yourself and build some sustainability into your life, the time is now.

This era will be looked back on as the renaissance age of entrepreneurship, and it's just beginning.

You need to refine your contribution to the industry, or the markets you know best and where you have the authority and the skills to compete.

Then you need to put one foot in front of the other no matter the seeming dangers.

Are there barbarians at the gate? I don’t care what neighborhood you live in anywhere on the globe, the answer has been, is, and always will be, yes.

Can you create some measure of control over the outcome? Yes.

Is this a bad time to start an enterprise?

Only if you don’t try.

Wiki Philip Gourevitch

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, Mr. Gourevitch's great book on the Rwanda genocide.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I've been using StumbleUpon for a while now and find it a great way to focus and wander at the same time.

You can choose the subject areas that most interest you. Then, using the toolbar you install in your browser, you can click through to 'stumble' on sites other users have found, within the subject areas you've specified. Nice stuff. Entrepreneurship category is good. Please click my StumbleUpon link if you find this site helpful and help me grow my reader base. Thanks!


Real startups vs branch outlets.
The glitz factor.

A little piece of economic data from the US Census Dept. did not make the Madison, WI papers. It's probably because the business press in my town is smugly admiring the press releases from our biotech, nanotech and high tech start ups and wondering why the rest of the state can't get it.

Well, a very good biz reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught that Census economic data as it went by, and got it on page one above the fold in the business section of their paper on Friday, Aug. 17.

Rick Romell did the analysis and found that our Wisconsin entrepreneurial climate may look good on paper, but it's wallpaper for what's happening with real economic development at the entrepreneur level.

The meta numbers say we're gaining jobs and big establishments are locating here in numbers above the national average. Big establishments meaning branch stores of firms headquartered elsewhere.

For the local entrepreneur, the situation is much different as Rick Romell parses out the numbers. In fact, we're tied for the eighth worst spot in the US for new entrepreneurship with the likes of Alabama, Mississippi and Nebraska.

Worse, Wisconsin ranked fourth worst in the US for birth rates of new businesses.

There seems to be an inverse relationship as Rick Romell has identified it. We're low on the start up numbers, but better on our ability to keep them alive. Playing it safe seems to be the model.

One gentleman who is well respected in this field, David Ward of Northstar Economics, is quoted as saying the lagging pace of business creation in WIsconsin is "a persistent, nagging problem" that has been discussed in several economic summits. "But it's hard to move that number," he said.

The reality on the ground at the individual startup level, where I work, is that there is a huge increase in the number of people turning toward entrepreneurship to support themselves and their goals in Wisconsin (this is the same with residents of most states in the US, and it seems most every other country in the world).

Yet the entrepreneurship support systems and the people behind them just aren't getting it. They love to tout entrepreneurship but are content to encourage jobs at branch outlets of big box stores. Sure those jobs count, but that's not entrepreneurship. Perhaps that's just the nature of the bureaucracy beast.

There was a very significant economic development report released recently called the M7 Report. It looked at the 7 counties around Milwaukee and South East WI and came to the conclusion that this area needed to change from being "the machine shop to the world" to the "design shop to the world". Hell yes.

If ever there was a clarion call for entrepreneurship, it's this kind of report. Get the tools into the hands of smart, hard working people with new approaches and new ideas. It's the same with all the other areas of the state and the country for that matter.

Unfortunately, the follow up and execution from these reports doesn't look to the street level. Official solutions providers tend to work at the meta level. Entry level startups with the potential for modest gains get trampled for glitzier headline-ready projects.

Starting up small, micro-funded startups is a messy, unglamorous process. The official support systems barely even notice these kinds of enterprises. It's much easier to count other, related numbers and declare success.

Mr. Ward from Northstar notes, "It's hard to move that (startup) number".

Yes, it is when our support systems are tripping over themselves to attract branch office stores and glossy high tech startups, while leaving the rest of us as something discussed as problems at economic summits.

This isn't a Wisconsin thing. It's typical across the US. As I talk to my startup friends and clients across the country, getting anyone's attention for smaller scale, micro financed, individual or family based startups is like selling foot odor.

The response is, "Somebody should do something about that, but it's not my job."

Isn't it about time we stopped fretting about this at economic summits and made it someone's job?

You can read Rick Romell's article here. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article original can be purchased for $2.95 here. Search for Romell and take Rick's story dated August 17, 2007