Specializing in bringing together all components necessary for long term business growth,
profitability and success; and ensuring
that they are working in harmony.

Archive for the ‘face book’ Category

What is it I do? And, what is it I want to do?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Recently I conferred with a friend where I suggested areas in her business strategy that I felt I could further advise her.
From issues in business culture to resolving expansion challenges, I shared stories of previous engagements. I then turned our conversation to a business model I had been developing with previous business partners (a model in her sector) that I had always believed that had we continued – would have been immensely successful.

In earlier discussions, we also entertained the idea of utilizing my firm’s services to the benefit of her marketing and funding strategies. Therefore, I confidently assumed that she was already aware of “what I do.” However, as we broadened our discussion to other possible areas of strengths I could offer her she looked at me and simply asked, “What is it you want to do?” “I mean”, she continued, “you have shared stories about what you have done, but you have never told me what you really want to do?”

For a few minutes, I was dumb founded by the question. “Why doesn’t she understand what I do I asked myself?” Who else is there that still doesn’t get it? “Or is the question specific to “what is it I want to do” in the immediate case of the conversation?”

Ironically, later that afternoon I received a call from a respected business colleague who conveyed his own frustration with the same dilemma. “I am good at technology, analytics, problem solving and have a large roller-dx of investors.” But it seems like everybody just wants to put me in a box” he exclaimed.”
To his point, I suggested that he clarify his list of deliverables which are tied in with his love for what he does.

So here is what I want to do:
Bring my specific skills and talents to the benefit of engagements, which allows me to enjoy and profit from using them. Once again, my skills and talents include long and short-term business strategies, which are complemented through marketing and creative advertising.
Building on these attributes include, the capacity to assess employee morale/performance as well as increasing customer retention. (Remember, no advertising or growth strategies are meaningful unless both employees and customers are happy.) Finally, a qualified list of contacts and resources are also available/when required –as part of services provided.

Engagement requirements are not just the amount the financial reward, but that I stand to truly benefit clients objectives from the use of my skills and talents. If not, then I am not interested.
Having multiple business skills does not make me a Jack-Of-All-Trades. I am not. I am not claiming to be a plumber also or software designer too. Nor do I repair cars or build electrical grids. I am however, an expert at taking a full and complete look at a business so that one piece of the flywheel supports the other.

Marketing needs to bring market share. However, when the market share is realized then the company must be ready for the growth that follows – and this is the philosophy I have built my practice on.

As indicated on our website, the mission is:
“Specializing in bringing together all components necessary for long-term business growth, profitability and success; and ensuring that they are working in harmony”.
What part of that do I love? All of it! Because it is all-inclusive for a company’s success!

So what about you? What are the things you are good at? Are their additional services your business can offer which are truly co-complementary? Are you really good at it, or do you need to take some time to further develop it? Whatever you chose to offer, be sure that it diversifies your services in a positive way, which is consistent to providing the best resources available.

What are you wearing?

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Mark Zukerman arrives on Wall Street wearing a hoodie and tennis shoes. While he is still dressed like an adolescent teenager walking into your local high school, those around him are decked out in $1000, 00 plus business suits.

On a hot afternoon day with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, I drive onto an auto dealership and am greeted by a salesperson wearing a shirt and tie. His face is sweating from standing outside in the sweltering sun. When asked why he was dressed so uncomfortably he replies, “it’s the dress code sir, we have to look professional.”

Something is out of whack!

There is a growing trend of young successful business people looking like “adolescent slobs” while poor car sales representative are required to work in a “clothing imposed sweat lodge,” – just doesn’t seem to add up. What gives?

We recently went to a nice restaurant in downtown Austin where the total tab for two of us came to $183.82. When I rose to go to the restroom, I was appalled at one person dinning across from us in shorts and flip- flops. Standing in the entrance waiting for their table were two more, this time in tank tops and blue jeans. The restaurants manager explained that this was part of the new norm and that everyone needed to be tolerant or each other’s preferences. No, I am NOT tolerant because dressing up for nicer occasions (and seeing that others also engaged) in a traditional norm of social etiquette. In essence, the slobs are ruining the experience for the rest of us by cheapening the experience and the restaurants stand to lose their credibility for what they are charging. After all, ambiance has always been part of the dining experience, hasn’t it?

On the other hand, silly corporate policy always amazes me. I chose not to get out of my car when I was greeted by the sweating car sales representative because I was so disgusted by the dealerships dress code policy. A few days later, our neighbor shared a similar story about the same dealership. “I don’t know why I left she said, I really liked the person who was helping me but after I got home and shared my experience with my husband, I realized it was because it made me so uncomfortable watching him wearing that shirt and tie in the Texas heat, that I did not want to stay.”

Consciously and sub-concisely, consumers make their buying decisions. Sometimes it is about ambiance, other times it might be about how he or she feels when interfacing with a company representative who is obviously miserable. Either way, it affects sales.

In the meantime, Zukerman could periodically rise to the occasion when attending an event and oppressive corporate dress policies might want lighten up a little bit.

GOING UNDERC0VER andThe Value of Critical and Honest Employee Input

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Without employees who are productive and happy, growing a company will be difficult. This is why I always encourage candid and open dialogue between management and employees. On the same token, it is generally more beneficial to keep a pulse on company morale and direction through an independent third party. This is because it is often difficult to get honest and direct answers from employees on what they really think.

An outside independent party will – take a careful look at your offices, stores or locations to assess how things are running from a professional outside perspective. Then, by earning the trust of key personnel, will be able to successfully troubleshoot areas weakness.
Here are a few Case Examples:

A Deli in Walnut Creek, CA.
Total employees – 73

A onetime popular destination for hungry patrons twenty-six miles east of San Francisco, the small chain of delis was quickly losing market share. “I’m not really sure what the problem is exclaimed the Senior Partner, we used to have line out the door, but now business has dropped off. Can you help us develop a marketing strategy so we can win back our customers?”

“Well sure, I replied, but before we do that, I think it behooves such an investment to focus on what people are currently experiencing first, and identify any problems or deficiencies that give customers a less then delightful experience.”

As with many other similar situations we began with an in-depth customer survey followed by me going under cover. The difference between a Mystery Shopper approach and going under cover is that I play the role of the Mystery Shopper from a specific professional perspective of knowing exactly what I was looking for. And yes, this is a big difference!

• How easy is it to find? How is the signage?
• Is parking adequate, or do I need to worry about door dings?
• What does the place look like? How does it smell? Is there music that compliments the inside ambiance and environment?

1. I walked into the first location to a low vibe environment. “No energy here, I concluded. Why would I want to patronize a place that was boring?”

2. At the next location, I noticed a unpleasant smell and then looking up toward the top right ceiling observed a thick group of cobwebs. “So what else was un kempt?”

3. The third location was equally boring, but at least had no cobwebs. Nor did it have an attentive staff. While I looked at the menu board, the employees busily stared at their phones, one texting while the other seemed fixated on Facebook. “Nothing worse than inattentive employees who don’t acknowledge the customers!”

Taking my notes with me, I set up a series of meetings with various employees in the organization until I was meeting with Hillary, the General Manager. My conversation began with my experience from going under cover.
Thirty minutes after earning the trust of Hillary, the middle aged woman suddenly stopped me by asking, “do you really want to know my opinion, and I mean – my honest opinion?“ “Of course I replied.” She then excused herself and returned with a large folder. “I have been keeping notes on everything that has either happened or has gone wrong with this company for the last six years, but the business owners have not listened, this is why things have gotten so bad around here and why we have not been making any money. Even worse, she continued, this is why it is so difficult to get my people to give a damn! Why bother? Management does not listen or seem to care anyway, so why should the employees?”

We reviewed the file and were able to use it as a toolbox for harvesting valuable information and feedback from other personnel. Much of this confirmed serious management deficiencies. As a result, the argument for recommending changes in policy and protocols was a simple one.

Benefits and Results: The client agreed to consider the changes, which originated in Hillary’s files, thus returning their chain of Delis to profitability. (Sometimes the people in the trenches have a better feel for what needs to be done to be successful then those who actually own the company) I suggested that we give the process several months and see if this will be enough to begin the process for winning back customers. The ad campaign was then designed with a theme of “finding out what has changed!”

Because fundamental issues were resolved between management and employees, major expenditures for adverting were averted. The other realization however, was that the company owners were ready to sell – and retire. Eight months later, this too was carried out after referring them to a competent business broker.

A Tree Service in Austin Texas
Total employees – 35
A small company built and managed by the owner and his GM (brother) had an issue with discernment. The problem was that they were good at what they did, but not necessarily good at reading people. After all, some of the key people that were with the company were friends and relatives. Therefore, it was not always easy for the owner and GM to accept that some staff members were skimping on their responsibilities or worse, had addiction issues that kept them from either coming to work, or performing well when they did.

After interviewing key staff and personnel in the field, it was determined, that three counterproductive office employees and two outside project managers needed to be dismissed.

Benefits and Results – led to the removal of several unproductive employees thus saving the business $15,388.00 per month. More importantly, the office morale increased with an immediate lift of positive attitude and energy. The company environment was saved along with money no longer spent on unsavory or poor performing employees. As an incentive, a portion of the money saved was redistributed into higher salaries for key productive employees as a reward for doing a great job.

A Renovation Contractor in Oakland CA.
Total employees – 86
A fast growing company, with over eighty employees was experiencing an unusually high turnover rate. Fifteen employees were interviewed and an assessment report provided several pages of valid grievances. In addition, we discovered that the employer was in violation of labor laws, thus vulnerable to fines and/or lawsuits by disgruntled personnel.

It was recommended that Company President allow us to conduct an open and candid meeting between himself and his employees and to listen to all the grievances with an open mind. We followed up several weeks later to make sure that company changes – as agreed upon were actually being implemented. We also sought additional improvements and long-terms systems designed to maintain mutual trust between him and his team.

Benefits and Results: Employer immediately implemented changes as required by State Labor Laws. He then authorized policy changes in response to employee grievances, currently affordable along with the promise to add additional employee request, within the coming months.

This engagement dramatically eliminated distrust between management and personnel resulting in a significant drop off in employee turnover (and cost associated with turnover).

In addition, reduced “shop stealing” of tools and equipment by disgruntled employees. In the spirit of cooperation, created protocols and systems, this streamlined day-to-day operations. Implementation of these changes resulted in low turnover, improved customer retention and a solid ten-year averaged growth of 38%.

A Restaurant in Prague, Czech Republic, Europe
Number of employees – 73

In the 1990s as Eastern Europe was celebrating its newfound independence they were also wrestling with how to evolve their business models to adapt to Western business standards. In 1995, I began advising a number of companies in this region on improving their business models so that increased profitability could be reached through a combination of good systems, enhanced management to employee communication and dramatically improved customer service.

One of my favorite clients was a restaurant on Wenceslas Square, in the center of tourist foot traffic and business lunches. They had contacted us because they realized that they were not experiencing the repeat business from business parties and worse – had, on a weekly bases, tourist simply walk out due to lousy service. I met with the business partners and suggested that over the next week I go under cover as a patron. They agreed and for the next several weeks tuned from Business Adviser to Mystery Shopper. True to what I had been told, service was slow and inefficient. By comparison with other restaurants and eateries, the food quality was inconsistent and mediocre – where from time to time, it was great, but generally served lukewarm. As time progressed and I established a rapport with the wait-staff and began conversing with them to find out what from their perspective – “was going wrong?”

“Oh, we just work here, Honza politely replied, but I guess we are not motivated because we are paid little and the tips are lousy.” I looked at the menu and realized that for average lunch items (around $20 US, and dinners starting at $35, then tips should be a lot better than their average return of 2 – 4%. Especially with consideration to the tourist trade.

It was recommended that we conduct an in-depth employee survey with encouragement for honest candid input and assessment. This included their perception of management and customer inter-action and experience. An immediate fundamental change regarded tipping. Whereas the previous system was based on a joined tip jar, now each wait-staff member was tipped on his/her individual performance. From a western business perspective, this was a no- brainer. But in the 1990s, many businesses were still running from a Communist cultural mindset.

Benefits and Results: Employee turnover decreased by 82%, tips increased by 61%, return customers increased by 64% and profits increased by 58%.

Summary:
Here are some basic things to keep in mind for increased employee performance:
1. Encourage employee empowerment and responsibility
2. Develop processes designed to give your employees the ownership to take care of each customer as if they were their own personal guest.
3. Always look for ways to create respect, cooperation and harmony between staff and management
4. Weed out the poor performers and the culprits who bring toxic energy into the office environment.

Your Brand – So, what makes you worth their visit?

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Many times businesses (new businesses in particular) fail to understand how branding is an intricate part of their marketing campaign.

In strip malls across the country, businesses come and go. An entrepreneur launches a business, puts up a sign and even tacks up a “grand opening banner” which indefinitely hangs above the location.

Unfortunately, many seem to think that this alone will do the trick, only to die a slow and unnecessary death because they could not attract enough customers.

The same thing is repeated in various internet campaigns. Potential customers are blasted with loads of information but not enough true branding that clearly defines purpose or reason for a reader not to click the delete button. To them, it is nothing different, just chatter.

What’s in it for your customer?

• People drive by, and if they do notice the signs may ask to themselves, so what?
What makes them curious enough to want to check your place out?

• If they do – What is the compelling reason that they should have to get out of their comfort zones and try you out through a purchase?

Consider the last location or website you, as a consumer recently visited:

• Were you aware of them before?
• Did your experience successfully anchor you as a return customer?
• Would recommend them to your friends, family or business associates?

Remember, every place or business has a brand.
Even as a non-brand, it is a brand unto itself.

Good branding creates an image for a possibility outcome = consumer curiosity = intention and visitation = initial impression = decision to purchase = experience = retention and refer or decline to return with possible negative consequences.

This can be through either a walk in or a visit to an inter-active website where a service or product is available. Moreover, once your prospect is engaged in checking out your business, you have an opportunity to live the brand and image you have created. If you are successful, then your customer retention rate and referrals go up. If not, then they stay the same or decrease.
Bottom line:
Brand yourself from the start – along with good signage which creates the graphic image, make sure that you can clearly demonstrate – why you are different
Then prove it!

The Tale of two Theaters

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

The other night I took my 15 year old and his friend to the movies. After spending thirty dollars on movie tickets, we found our seats only to enjoy twenty-five or so TV commercials. It was half way through this grueling experience of watching annoying TV ads that I decided to get up and get some sodas and pop corn. There it was, that wonderful menu board, proudly displayed on the wall with overpriced items. My order was taken by the high school student, who cheerfully read it back – “one pop corn and three drinks that will be $23.00!”

As I recovered from the shock of forking over $23.00 for (let me repeat, one pop corn, and three drinks) George’s friend grabbed the pop corn and proceeded toward the saltshaker. “What are you doing?” I asked. “George and I like extra salt, Tyler replied.” Well hold on for a moment please”, I asked now turning to request a box for me to pour my part of the prior to extra salt 7.50 pop corn. The Concessionaire brought out a tiny box just large enough for a hot dog. “We can offer you this. He offered.” “They use to have larger boxes, I replied, this will hardly fit much” “Yes, he continued, we can certainly give you a larger box but we need to charge you for it.” What do you mean, how much I asked?  “Well he began; they make us charge whatever the price would be for popcorn the size of the container.” “Ok then I said; just give me the dam hot dog box!”

_____________________________________________________________________________

This is the tale of two kinds of Theaters. One the recent traditional represented by Cine Mark and the Regal Theater Group, and the other represented by The Alamo Draft House.

Let me begin by defining recent traditional by comparison of traditional. Traditional as people 35 and older recall a theater experience, which included movie previews and cartoons. In addition, it was always understood that theater food would not be cheap or street price competitive. On the most part, people understood this and accepted that paying significantly more than conventional prices for candy popcorn and sodas was part of the theaters way of actually making money.

Then in the 90s, something began to fundamentally change. Prices for food, which originally accepted as high, became grossly excessive. Even bottled water (16 ounces) began selling for $4.00!

Then to add insult on top of injury, these chains saw the opportunity to hold their audience captive to anywhere between 15 to 30 TV ads! In an attempt to win audience acceptance of this cruel racket, they inserted a couple of TV promotionals and behind the scene snippets. After enduring the onslaught of relentless commercials at the viewers expense, we now hear the cheerful voice-over chime in over closing the music as she explains just how privileged the audience has been to have endured this. “You’ve been watching First Look, she explains, you went behind the scene to witness the making of…., you were treated to the new comedy show on….

Come here early (I don’t think so) to enjoy early inside previous and blab la bla on First Look!”

This approach continued to evolve to where things currently are. In summary, higher movie tickets, rip off food pricing and excessive TV ads forced down the throats of the customers.

Enter the Alamo Draft Houses, which began in Austin TX and are now experiencing expansion of their brilliant, yet very simple concept. And what is the concept?

Give the customer a fun and delightful experience so they don’t resent paying for it.”

The Alamo does not force their audience to suffer through annoying TV ads that common sense should tell the traditional movie chains CEOs that we came to the movies to avoid. Instead, they serve up a combination of old (and I mean 1950 and 60s old) TV snippets, 50s and 60s era ads, not to mention the old corny news reels that the baby boomers watched in their 4th through high school classes. And of course, a healthy serving of cartoons! Fun.

And rather than ripping off their customers with $5 – $6.00 sodas, they offer a number of great beers for around the same price. Junk food? Yes. However, good quality food for a reasonable price is also readily available. Even better, they actually throw out those annoying talkers and cell phone users who lack the courtesy to turn them off.

This is not intended to be an ad or promotion for The Alamo Draft House; however, as a happy customer I am happy to share my experience. So while traditional theaters go the way of the dinosaur (raising prices, cheap-skating their customers (remember the tiny pop-corn box!) and forcing more unwanted TV advertising down our throats – I will always check the movie listings at the Alamo theaters – first.

In summary, every business needs to examine their business model periodically, and if someone is taking away their market share, well, it may just be for a good reason!

Big banks and fees – here they go again

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011


In response to new rules that recently went into affect designed to insulate merchant’s excessive fees, Bank of America, and Chase have decided to shift the burden to their customers by having them pay a monthly 5.00 fee for the privilege of using their debit cards. And, just one swipe per month will do ya! Wells Fargo is also trying out a lower fee of 3.00.

In fairness to the banks it is important to point out that they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create a system that provides for debit card services. This investment included the technology and infrastructure to support required, to offer debit card convenience. Wal-Mart and Home Depot led the efforts to alleviate the cost to the merchants through legislation. I personally would have supported relief for merchants generating under fifty million annually.

Needless to say, the fees are being shifted AND because the big Banks have lost their credibility for goodwill – it is difficult to feel sorry for them. So let me reiterate, this is a charge levied against you for accessing your own money! So, let’s get this straight, first you get paid literally next to nothing for giving them your money to invest, then they charge you excessive credit card rates* for you to borrow (compare your APR to the current Prime rate for lending – even 8% is excessive)

Worse yet, many small business owners today are often sneered at by these guys at the idea of giving them a loan, or a decent line of credit.

Fee addition: How did we get to this?

For any of you old enough to remember, there was once a time Banks actually liked their customers. Rather than charging excessive interest rates on credit cards and loans, they actually paid decent rates for holding your money. Now of course, one hardly is paid anything at all (if anything) and for many, is expected to pay them to take your money.

Banks use to climb over one another to offer you a free toaster or microwave oven if you opened an account with them. Then came the ATMs. Suddenly they were offering additional incentives to get us all hooked on using ATMs. The banks also competed for bragging rights as to who actually had the most ATMs. Then the big push began to encourage consumers to use their ATM cards (soon to be renamed their debit or check cards. Of course all the incentivizing and bribing was not necessarily carried out to the benefit of the customer (as the banks would have you believe)

  • Labor savings – ATM machines kept their cost down by allowing banks to eliminate staff, which would have been previously required to manage those who needed to cash a check. In addition, automated withdrawals though ATMs also reduced human error through computerized record keeping.

As an added bonus, banks realized a financial bonanza in charging non-customers excessive fees to access their networks!

  • Debit Cards – As with ATMs, debit card use was incentivized to lower their cost of business under the guise promoting customer conveyance. Once again, it reduced the labor cost of constantly refilling their ATMs with cash. Better yet, removed another roadblock for a customer to spend money if they did not want to use their credit card. Now, the “I will need to write a check or withdrawal from the ATM” obstacle was eliminated.
  • Overdraft Fees – For years, banks enjoyed another money bonanza of offering overdraft protection for anyone who spent money without having an adequate balance. The majority of those affected were not intentionally over-drawing, they just neglected to double check for new fee’s banks were slipping in which affected their balances.

  • Fee’s are like heroin to banks – Senior Bankers I have spoken with actually confided that they have “fee committees” set up to think up new fees! It is an addiction for Banks to both make up and enforce them. Therefore, when they are taken away to the benefit of the consumer, well, the banks, like any heroin addicts, get upset!

Rather than placing focus on taking care of their customers and encouraging long-term satisfaction, Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo are moving forward with a plan to access fees for their customers who use their Debit Cards – and the continued war against their own customers grinds on. Well unless their customers wise up and move their money to a Bank or Credit Union that is not so fee addicted.

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Complements to Whataburger

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I want to complement Whataburger on a couple of things. No, they are not a client so this is not intended to be anything other than an acknowledgment of the following:

Recently, I had a great customer experience with them. Because I need to watch my sodium intake, I requested that the fries with my order have very little salt. Instead, I received my combo meal with one cheeseburger, a drink and fries – (with too much salt.)

After bringing it up to the manager (more, for letting them know that this could be a problem that they may not aware) she inquired what my total order was. Upon reply, she promptly re-entered the order in the register and Bing! – brought up $6.37 – which she returned.

I thanked her and stated that it was not my intention to be reimbursed for an entire order, and that I just wanted them to know about the salt issue for future purposes. She just smiled and said, “No sir, we want you to be happy with your entire order and if not, then want to make it right for you.”

I gladly accepted her generosity and told her that Whataburger had just earned “a customer for life.” In addition, I have shared this story with many people and am now telling you, the readers as well. From What-a Burgers competitors to phone companies to other businesses in other sectors:

How many times do you (the customer) just want to be treated right? How many billions of dollars are spent needlessly trying to woo or woo back customers? How much would be saved – and gained – if other companies took care of their customers the way Whataburger took care of me?

Finally, unlike so many TV ads that I immediately mute, I absolutely love the What-a Burger ads! Talk about an ad campaign geared to the Texas consumers – and I am not even a “good ole boy!” Kudos to the Ad Agency who is carrying out their campaign.  Someday I would really enjoy the opportunity to meet the voice over guy in their ad. In the meantime; I applaud one company for honoring their promise to provide something they promise “just like you like it!”

When to purge a business card or delete a contact

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Recently I found the time to go through my “pile of cards” and contact list. It was overwhelming. So many names had accumulated that I opted to set aside a half a day just to clean things up. The process reminded me of relevance – specifically, what and who is relevant?

What includes those who may bring benefit either as a cooperative business partner or specifically to a client.

Who is literally who the person is – not just the service or product – but the individual.

Means Test – So how do I determine who to keep and who to purge? It is based on two things, one who I really like and feel I can work with in the future (chemistry) and two, whether referrals have been reciprocated. Life is a two way street.

From attorneys to CPAs to Website developers I exercised the cleansing process. Where good chemistry and mutual consideration has been shown, I not only kept them but also went through my client list to see if they might benefit from an updated client referral.

The same applies of course with our client list itself

We all have active and inactive clients. Sometimes there is a tendency (especially in today’s economy) to hope or assume that inactive clients will once again become active clients. Sometimes we discover that they are not only inactive, but unfortunately, out of business!

My means test for this is that if a client has been inactive for more than three years, then one can rest assured that they will not be coming back. Every six months is a great time to check in with them – and encourage them to be candid as to whether or not they think they may wish to continue in the future. Valuable time is  saved if they inform you either way.

Summary:

The bottom line is that life is too short and time management too important to waste on names and numbers who are no longer relevant. So stay on top of your collection of cards and contacts. And by the way, it might be better and more efficient not to assume that someone wants your card unless they actually ask for it.

Getting Ready For an Another Round of Useless Job Creation Ideas

Friday, August 19th, 2011

As the 2012 election cycle launches into high gear, everyone seems to be talking about jobs. So now every candidate who claims to understand the real pain in our economy appears “to have a plan “or, so they think!

Last night while watching the news we were all informed that President Obama is about to unveil his new improved jobs plan. And, from what I heard, it is pretty much the same as what he has tried previously with no results!

Spending massive amounts on infrastructure, (though badly needed) simply will not do the trick. Spending money on roads, bridges, energy and the like is too focused on narrow sectors of the economy, lacking the vision of taking a broad approach.

Based on this assumption, the majority of Americas unemployed are let’s say, “construction workers? “ Therefore, I remain eternally frustrated that he still ignores a real conversation with Main Street USA.

These are the small businesses across the country that have always been the backbone of our economy. These are the true innovators and original job creators. As Earl Nightingale, a renowned business philosopher once asked, “Where do you think our great businesses and industries came from? With one or two individuals with a great idea – and built something from there.”

Everyone begins with an idea, and if it is a good one – then it takes hold and grows. From Apple Computers (Steve Jobs and his colleagues with one great idea) to new consumer products being created today across the country and share the common thread.

Instead of pumping massive amounts of money into  plans that still have not worked it is time that we create thousands of seed money incubators across the country to review, monitor and successfully grow new business. Sure, some will fail, but look at Apple and others like them and ask yourself, how many jobs will be created if they take off? Small business on Main Street USA will also benefit from real help to secure easier to obtain SBA loans, hire more people who will then be able to spend – driving the economy toward real recovery.

So Mr. President, please, get rid of your Big Business and Union economic team advisers. Dump your college friends who never had a real business in the private sector, and listen to us on Main Street. Because small businesses, and qualified start-ups have a tendency to surprise us all!

AUSTIN HOLDS THE BRASS RING What we do with it – is the question

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

As a Board Member to Austin Independent Business Alliance, I was recently asked to add my comments to a manifesto intended for city leaders to consider, here are my thoughts:

Austin is in the unique position for not only becoming the entrepreneurial capital of America, but also helping to lead the country (by example) – out of the recession.
Consider this:

We have been blessed with an unusual set of circumstances, which positions us for real economic and business growth. This includes a combination of creative thinkers, a predominately-younger energized and well-educated population. Finally, combine these exciting elements with the real can- do philosophy that goes to the very roots of our national origins and Austin is a winner!
Some things are already being done to foster this proposition. Comparatively speaking, Austin has a better reputation for being more business friendly then places like San Francisco, San Jose, Boston and other major hubs for new products, services and innovative thinking.
In addition to hosting two giant festivals annually, have weather that tourists seem to like, a beautiful environment, and a thriving downtown.
So what is missing?
Austin continues to place too many eggs in the Tech basket. Though we have improved our mind-set in recent years, we still place so much emphasis on high tech and high tech related sectors that we ignore other great things like consumer products, new foods, and services.
In addition, we spend our energy and resources on attracting new corporate giants to set up shop so that they will facilitate new job opportunities. In doing so – foolishly attempt to bribe and attract them with “no tax incentives” because in spite of what thousands of newcomers will tell us, our city officials fail to believe that Austin’s attraction for great talent and low taxes is already enough.
But what if the money used or deferred to attract large mega corporations was instead channeled into fostering further growth for our small businesses? Instead of committees seeking ways to bring in big businesses, what about bringing together small and large business leaders with Investor partners to discuss the creation of real seed funding designed to encourage a wide diversification of qualified start-up considerations? Moreover, when I say real, I dare to suggest an approach that considers a start-up considerations based on its merits, not just the founders equity.
Yes, many start-ups and small businesses do fail in the first several months to three years. We know that. Nevertheless, the ones that do succeed go on to create real jobs and livelihoods for millions of people. The recession brought home an urgent point, that big companies can and will create big layoffs when times are lean. Once again, the egg in one basket syndrome.
However, by channeling resources into creation of new business opportunities a percentage of those laid off, with great ideas become self employed and in the process, create more jobs.
We tend to forget that every great idea and business proposition started from something – and then grew. Starbucks, Dell and Ford all started with an idea, and then grew. By the way, notice the diversity in each entity I just mentioned? Not all tech companies are they?


In creating a real program designed to nurture and seed entrepreneurship, Austin can set an example on another exciting proposition – transforming non-conforming students and Youth at Risk (YAR) into tomorrow’s business leaders.
Granted, not all are business leaders, but I am a firm believer into channeling energy into real opportunity. A brief check in business history 101 demonstrates that many of our greatest business creators and leaders did not necessarily fit in to the school curriculums. Many young people who just do not fit into being a good student are bored. Schools teach more about following orders then taking a great idea and leading. We can begin to change that – and in the process set an example for the rest of the country.
Finally, Austin needs to make sure that while it is embracing real and exciting growth in its downtown, it is not doing so at the peril of creating a two-class society. One look at downtowns emerging demographics tell us that the majority of the new condominiums and hotels are for the upwardly mobile who can afford the ever-expensive parking and new restaurants. In addition, not everyone wants a valet parking their car. Many new and small businesses (particularly in their early stages – until they really take off), are not able to pay the kind of salaries either to founders or to their employees, which provides for a nice evening in downtown.
Today for example, many of the small businesses and their owners in San Francisco have over recent years packed up and moved to places like Sacramento where the middle class can still hold promise to opportunity. Workers needed to serve Bay Area businesses frequently commute seventy-five plus miles each way – each day to their jobs. Why? Because many parts of the Bay Area (San Francisco and the surrounding areas) have become a two class economy.
Is this what we want of Austin?
Yes, we hold the brass ring, and if we are open minded and smart enough to learn from other cities that experienced creative growth, then we can seize the opportunity offered to us. Our business and Civic leaders can do remarkable things and in the end, we will have something to be remarkably proud of.