Lessons from Shark Tank

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If you haven’t watched Shark Tank on CNBC, you are missing one heck of a show. It’s filled with the drama and ego of its rich and successful investor panel pitted against novice startup CEOs ranging from sweet little girls to guys who surf for a living.

The goal of the show is simple: Present your business idea and if you survive your immersion into the tank, you could receive millions in investment money and the guidance of business geniuses who are profoundly successful.

What’s the catch?

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The elephant’s dilemma

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As a little boy, I loved going to the circus with my dad. It was Saturday and we stood in line in front of the animal tents, waiting to buy a ticket. I noticed the elephants were right in front of us. I always loved elephants and have been fascinated by stories of their wisdom, memory and strength. That particular day, all the elephants were tied up to a single stake in the ground.

I asked my dad “Why don’t the elephants escape?” He smiled and looked at me with his kind, gentle eyes and said “They can’t, they are tied up. And besides, where would they go? They have food and water, shelter and friendship here at the circus.” He seemed satisfied with his answer but it left me troubled.

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Why I Love Infomercials

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Can YOU sell on Television?True Confessions

I have to admit a guilty pleasure: I love infomercials. Actually it’s worse than that. I love junk mail, too. I even love those live demos at the home show where they sell overpriced pots, pans, knives, and miracle window cleaning fluid. I enjoy listening to every one of those pitches.  Why? Because every one of them is a lesson in selling.

Actually I love marketing and selling. I’ve been marketing and selling something all my life. Every time I sit through a sales presentation and allow myself to feel the magic of a great performance work inside my brain convincing me I desperately need the very gadget they are selling, I am taking mental notes on what really works… and what doesn’t. There are a lot of smart, subtle techniques that work great, and you can pick them out if you are listening for them. Can you guess what some of those are?

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The Entrepreneur’s 10 Commandments

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photodune-6684582-top-10-xsIs it easier or harder to start a company in 2014 than it was in 1985?

This became the basis for a fun conversation among my friends and me as we enjoyed a good meal at a nice restaurant. As our evening progressed, the laughter drowned out the waiter as we shared stories of our lives and our startup adventures. Stories that were sad and poignant then are funny…. finally! Like when I couldn’t make payroll and had to use credit cards or when smoke from a fire next door wiped out our manufacturing plant.  Yeah those were to good old days. :-)

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Time to Be Honest About Marketing

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Businessman Taking Oath

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that as marketers, we forgot the sacredness of  accolades.   Words like “amazing,” “incredible” and “life changing” should be reserved for those things that actually are. I for one am sick of the constant barrage of false claims and outright lies that do nothing more than clutter my vision.

When are we going to demand honesty from those who sell us their products?

Do you actually trust any marketing you are exposed to? Think about it. Our entire system is designed to over-hype everything we sell. No one is immune to it, everyone knows about it and it seems as if no one believes it anyway.

So what about your own marketing? Have you read through your own web site and tried to put yourself in the position of the reader? Even if every word is true, does it sound like hype?

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The Golden Age of Failure

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Ways to FailIt’s bad, it’s tragic, it’s even horrible. To fail that is.  Seems like there’s a lot of it these days. Banks failing, cities and towns failing – even kids failing in school. How could any of this be good?

Some Interesting Failures

What if I told you that a particular guy named Fred submitted homework assignment to his economics teacher who gave him a “C” grade then went on the be a multi-billionaire later in life, would that surprise you?

What if I told you that his original idea was both flawed and brilliant at the same time, and he should have realized it would never have worked, but had the germ of an incredible idea, does that sound familiar?

Who am I talking about?

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How to Start Anything

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The PlanEntrepreneurs are, by definition natural born starters. If you are one, you know  the passion of the process and the inevitable crush of reality that follows.

You’ve always been this way. Your passion becomes all consuming and then the slow burn of commitment sets in with the unsubstantiated knowledge that your way will win; your way will beat the odds. That you don’t have to listen to anyone who doubts you or your idea. Entrepreneurship is a mindset. But it’s also a skill perfected over the course of several attempts.

Like any good mentor, my job is to help you skip the more painful mistakes and learn from mine instead.

Do you have an idea, a vision, a product improvement that is burning a hole in your mental pocket? Good. Then lets get started.

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The Purpose of Marketing

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Photo used with permission from: www.topspeed.com

Photo permission from: www.topspeed.com

I started to think about how much the “how” of marketing has changed over the years. As you realize, it’s completely different in almost every respect than it was 5 years ago. It’s almost as if a new marketing channel or vehicle is available daily.

Do you remember when life was simple? There was Radio (AM/FM that is) TV (all 13 channels) and print (newspapers and magazines.) Lets not forget The Yellow Pages.

Marketing tools get more and more sophisticated but unfortunately some people seem to have forgotten the entire point of it; The Purpose of Marketing.

Question: What did Harley Davidson do to build a brand religion?

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Does Your Driving Reveal Your Personality?

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The Aggressive DriverNote: This post is tagged as “Just for Fun”

Years ago, I was building a management team for my software company, Timeslips Corp. and I had the strangest idea. I wondered if a candidate’s driving style a reflection of their personality or work style.

I am an “aggressive” driver. I like to push the speed limit and I enjoy moving quickly. I am not at all reckless, I am very careful and I love to drive.

I am well trained, I know how to sidestep accidents and problems when I have the chance. I am also an “aggressive” entrepreneur. I am always looking for a “better way” and that’s also my “why.” So I started to think; if my driving style reflects my own personality (in one respect) do other driving styles at some level define other’s personalities too?

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Qualities of Leadership

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Some months ago, I  met with a team of hard working, brilliant entrepreneurs who have an amazing new service, which I will talk about in future posts.

New CEOThey are looking for a CEO to lead the team. Should they hire someone from outside or promote from within? Does anyone on the team have what it takes to lead? What qualities would be important?

This is what critical board level decision making is about. They asked me what I thought of a several candidates, this is how I approached the problem.

I asked; Does anyone on the existing team have all the qualities you need to lead the company?

How would you decide?

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