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Business Ideas – How to Learn, Not Waste Time, and Be Kind Like Benjamin Franklin
Today we’re going to take a closer look at the fifteenth child of seventeen children who only had two years of grammar school education and went on to become an entrepreneur and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. This is the story of Benjamin Franklin and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin (born January 17, 1706) did not come from a family of prominence. Instead, his family could only afford to send him to two years of grammar school and by the time he was 13, Franklin’s father sent him off to apprentice at his older brother’s print company. Here, Franklin helped to compose pamphlets, set up type, sell the paper on the streets and perform other printer-related duties. Franklin also began writing columns under the pseudonym ‘Mrs. Silence Dogood’, who he fabricated to be a middle-aged widow. Dogood was an immediate hit with her writings about the problems and social conditions of women, but when James found out it was actually his younger brother writing her column, he was furious. As a result of James’ ensuing harassment and beatings, Franklin became a fugitive and ran away from his family at the age of 17.
Franklin tried his luck as a printer both in New York and New Jersey, but to no avail. He then moved to Philadelphia, where he did manage to find a job with a printer. But, Franklin was unsatisfied with his prospects there. After a brief stint at a printer’s shop in London, England, Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1726. Four years and much borrowed money later, he had finally set up his own printing house. He began to publish a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette, in which he would regularly give himself space to comment on the most pressing social issues of the time. He cultivated an image of himself as an intellectual and a productive young man and his writings were the beginning of what would earn Franklin significant social respect.
In 1748, Franklin officially retired from the printing business, although he continued writing literature and satirical essays throughout the rest of his life. He began to take a more formal role in public life, becoming councilman, Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania and elected member of the Assembly. Five years later, he was appointed Joint Deputy Postmaster-General of North America and several other posts. In perhaps his most well known feat, Franklin began working towards independence as part of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence. In 1787, after he had retired from public office, he attended a series of meetings that would result in the United States Constitution. He became the only Founding Father to sign all three of the country’s major founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The Treaty of Paris and the U.S. Constitution.
Action Item #1: Always be Learning
Action Item #2: Don’t Waste Time
Action Item #3: Be Kind to One Another
Benjamin Franklin had no real opinions on slavery until he went to England. His wife, Deborah, was not well educated and had problems even writing to him, but pressured him into visiting a grammar school for black children while he was stationed in London. After visiting the school, Franklin found, to his surprise, that black children were just as smart at white children. After coming to this realization, he changed his entire outlook on the way slavery was being conducted in the United States.
Unknown to most people in America, Franklin was one of the first American politicians to advocate the end of slavery in the United States. He had been socially active most of his life, even creating one of the first fire departments in Philadelphia. During the end of his life, he spent a lot of time speaking, writing and publicly admonishing other politicians that believed in slavery. He wanted to start schools for black children and offer them the same things white children had, but in the end, all of his talk would be disregarded. However, his beliefs would eventually lead Abraham Lincoln to the same realization.
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons from Reed Hastings (Netflix)
Today we’re going to take a closer look at how a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher began a software company at the age of 48. Deciding to switch careers later in life, this man would build the largest movie-rental service in the United States, with more than 23 million subscribers. This is the story of Netflix founder Reed Hastings and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“I got the idea for Netflix after my company was acquired. I had a big late fee for ‘Apollo 13.’ It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette. It was all my fault.” – Reed Hastings
Reed Hastings (born October 8, 1960) is an American entrepreneur and founder of Netflix. He used to teach mathematics in Swaziland as an American Peace Corps volunteer. So, when 48 year old Reed Hastings decided to found his own software company, some eyebrows were raised. But Hastings would prove the disbelievers wrong with the subsequent founding of Netflix, the largest movie-rental service via mail in the U.S. With over 23 million subscribers and sales in the billions, Hastings proved he was able to go from living in Africa, to living in affluence.
Hastings’ father was a prominent lawyer who once worked in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Nixon Administration. After graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree and winning awards for his mathematics abilities, Hastings felt the urge to join the Marine Corps. He signed up for their Platoon Leader Class, and spent two years in their boot camp in Quantico, Virginia. In 1983, Hastings found himself in Swaziland working as a mathematics professor for the Peace Corps. He stayed there two years before deciding to return home. Back in the U.S., Hastings was accepted into graduate school at Stanford. His first choice had been M.I.T., but he did not get accepted.
Hastings graduated from Stanford with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science in 1988, and was subsequently hired by Adaptive Technology, where he worked on developing a debugging software tool. But, Hastings wanted more of a challenge, and he wanted to work for himself. Hastings decided the only option was to set off on his own and start a business. In 1991, Hastings quit his job and launched Pure Software, a company dedicated to developing troubleshooting products for software. But, as the company grew, Hastings found that his mathematics and computer background was not enough of a match for running a business. He asked his company’s board of directors to replace him for the good of the company. After finally selling the business, he would wait two years before trying again. In 1998, Hastings founded Netflix as a movie rental by mail service that offered a flat rate subscription fee. Within five years the business was booming.
Action Item #1: Change the Model
Action Item #2: Don’t Underestimate the Competition
Action Item #3: Work Hard
Even though Hastings grew up in a well-to-do family and attended private school, he spent a few years working for the Peace Corps and teaching in Swaziland. After returning to the United States, he would eventually move to California. Unknown to most people, Hastings became very active in educational philanthropy. He would advocate stronger math and science curricula, as well as advocate increasing the number of charter schools, which he believed were better than public schools.
In an effort to change the way the public schools did business, Hastings would organize a drive to get a new proposal on the California ballot during the 2000 elections. Proposition 39 would go on the ballot, but to show his support for education, Hastings would go back to school to get his graduate degree in education. This showed all the residents that he was serious about education and Proposition 39 would eventually be passed by a large majority of residents.
“It was an extremely satisfying experience. Taking smart risks can be very gratifying.”
“Early on, the first concept we launched was rental by mail, but it wasn’t subscription based, so it worked more like Blockbuster. Some people liked it, but it wasn’t very popular. I remember thinking, God, this whole thing could go down.”
“I learned the value of focus. I learned it is better to do one product well than two products in a mediocre way.”
Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From Henry Ford
Today we’re going to look at how an entrepreneur who was told he wouldn’t last six months in business refused to give up and went on to become one of the wealthiest men in the world. This is the story of Henry Ford and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“You can do anything if you have enthusiasm.” – Henry Ford
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 — April 7, 1947) was an American business icon and founder of the Ford Motor Company. He was the son of Irish immigrants and from an early age showed an interest in engineering. He set out to learn as much as he could and took various apprenticeships and jobs with manufacturing companies.
When he was 36 years old he invented the Quadricycle in his spare time. It was two bicycles attached together, powered by a gasoline engine. It was a very primitive car. After refining the vehicle he went to see William H. Murphy, a lumber tycoon and investor in Detroit, who took it for a test drive. Murphy agreed with Ford that gasoline-powered vehicles would be fuelling the future and the two instantly formed a partnership. Henry Ford was in business.
Ford not only revolutionized the manufacturing industry with assembly line mass production, he also became one of the richest and most well-known people in the world. According to Forbes, his net worth in today’s dollars would be $188.1 billion, over three times richer than Bill Gates.
Action Item #1: Don’t Quit
Action Item #2: Focus on Quality
Action Item #3: Build a Team
When Henry Ford implemented his assembly line idea he found that his workers were quickly getting burnt out doing the same thing over and over again. To attract the best people, Ford recommended to his stockholders that they pay the workers $5 per day, twice the daily average wage. His stockholders said no so Ford bought them out, implemented his $5 a day salary and quickly had people lining up to work for him.
“Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”
“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one.”
“Most people get ahead during the time that others waste.”
Business Ideas – How to Master the Art of Selling Anything like John Johnson (Ebony)
Today we’re going to look at how a man went from living on welfare to becoming the first African American to make it onto the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the world. By the time he died he was worth an estimated $600 million.
“When I see a barrier, I cry and I curse, and then I get a ladder and climb over it… Failure is a word I don’t accept.” – John Johnson
John Harold Johnson (January 19, 1918 — August 8, 2005) was an American businessman and publisher. He was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company, and in 1982, the first African-American to appear on the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the world.
Action Item #1: Don’t Get Mad, Get Even
Until you prove yourself as an entrepreneur you’re going to have a lot of people doubt your ability to succeed. They’ll tell you to “play it safe” and get a job. They might also tell you that your product or service idea has been done before or is too crazy to do well. Part of your entrepreneurial journey will be using criticism as a counsellor but not as a jailor – listen to what can help you and don’t let harsh words prevent you from moving forward on your dreams.
All his life, Johnson had been told that he would not amount to much. He was a victim of the racism that was so prevalent in the U.S. at the time. Time after time, Johnson was discouraged from thinking he could one day be great and was blocked every time he tried. In addition to being denied bank loans because he was black, Johnson found it impossible to even purchase an office for his new company once he had obtained the money. When Johnson went to purchase a building in Chicago’s downtown area to be his company’s headquarters, he couldn’t make the deal – he was refused the purchase because he was black.
But, like at so many other times in his life, Johnson refused to give up. He wasn’t going to let a racist property manager stand in the way of his success. His advice: “It’s better to get smart than to get mad… Long shots do come in and hard work, dedication and perseverance will overcome almost any prejudice and open almost any door.”
Action Item #2: Master the Art of the Sale
In his best-selling autobiography, Succeeding Against the Odds, Johnson wrote a chapter entitled, “How to Sell Anybody Anything in Five Minutes or Less.” Johnson’s elementary rule to making a sale was that your pitch “be based not on your self-interest but on their self-interest… When I go in to see I never say, ‘Help me because I am black’ or ‘Help me because I am a minority.’ I always talk about what we can do for them.”
Johnson had three rules for successful selling. First, he would grab the client’s attention in the first few seconds of a meeting with an emotional statement that “hits him where he lives or does business.” Second, Johnson would try to find his client’s vulnerable spot. He felt that “everybody has something that will make him or her move or says yes.”
Johnson’s final step was to find a similarity with his client. According to Johnson: “Successful selling is a matter of finding common ground, no matter how narrow it might be, on which you and your client can stand together… Whether I had five or thirty-five minutes, I always based my presentation on these three tried-and-tested rules.”
Action Item #3: Communicate Success
If you’re going to build a business beyond yourself you’re also going to have to work on your communication skills so your staff understand where you’re trying to take the company and how they can help you get there.
Johnson believed that if he couldn’t communicate effectively with his staff, it didn’t matter how good his product was, his company was not going to prosper. Developing this talent was something that Johnson took great pride in and he ensured his senior staff was equally trained in the art.
Here’s Johnson’s advice: “I was born in poverty and spent two years on the welfare rolls, and I learned early that I had to communicate or die. And so I talked my way out of poverty — I communicated my way to the top… I’m a hands-on, hands-in, hands-wrapped-around manager, and I believe it’s impossible to separate good management from good communication. For the best manager is the best communicator.”
Business Ideas: 3 Business Lessons From Howard Hughes
Today we’re going to look at how a young man, orphaned as a teenager, turned his love of aviation and created a multi-billion dollar fortune. This is the story of Howard Hughes and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“I intend to be the greatest golfer in the world, the finest film producer in Hollywood, the greatest pilot in the world, and the richest man in the world.” – Howard Hughes
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. (December 24, 1905 — April 5, 1976) was an American industrialist, aviator, engineer, film producer, director, philanthropist, and was one of the wealthiest people in the world.
When Hughes was a teenager he lost both his parents and was left with a family inheritance from money his father made by selling his inventions. Ever ambitious he was quoted as saying “I intend to be the greatest golfer in the world, the finest film producer in Hollywood, the greatest pilot in the world, and the richest man in the world.”
Hughes aggressively pursued business interests in Hollywood films, airlines, and hotels and casinos to expand his empire. He managed to turn his $1 million inheritance into a $2 billion fortune. Equivalent to $6.6 billion in today’s dollars, Howard Hughes was and still would be considered one of the richest men in the world.
Action Item #1: Surround Yourself With the Best
After inheriting his father’s company as a teenager, Hughes recognized that he didn’t have the knowhow to run the business and looked for someone who could. He hired 36 year-old Noah Dietrich to be his accountant and right-hand man on a $10,000 a year salary. For the next three decades, Dietrich eventually became director, vice-president and CEO of various branches of Hughes’ empire.
According to Robert Maheu, a chief advisor to Hughes: “Dietrich was delivering Howard profits of $50 to $55 million a year. Big bucks in those days.”
Action Item #2: Don’t Give Up On Your Goals
The Hughes H-4 Hercules was the world’s largest flying boat, the largest aircraft made from wood and had the biggest wingspan of any aircraft ever built. It was contracted by the U.S. government to transport troops across the Atlantic to avoid German U-boats in the Second World War. Nicknamed the “Spruce Goose” it was three times the size of the largest plane ever previously built. Nobody thought Hughes would ever get it off the ground but he kept pushing towards his goal despite the naysayers.
According to Hughes: “This thing was a black sheep. Nobody wanted to fool around with it or become contaminated by it. We were working in a complete vacuum as to information based upon prior performance and prior design… I defy anyone today to design an airplane substantially more efficient than this one for its purpose.”
Action Item #3: Be Hands On
With some of the best people in the industry working for him, Hughes could have chosen to distance himself from the goings on of his various enterprises. But, instead, Hughes chose to be hands-on, involving himself in even the smallest of details. He would personally test fly all the planes that he helped design. He often even put his own life at risk to involve himself and improve his product. He was also, for the most part, adored by his staff, who appreciated his hands-on approach and were inspired by his dedication and enthusiasm.
According to Hughes: “If I have made a mistake in the design, then I’m the one who should pay for it. I certainly would not ask somebody else to fly a plane if I were afraid to do it myself.”
Business Ideas – 3 Lessons from Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines)
Today we’re going to look at how a young lawyer who seemingly had it all bravely left his job to start his own business. He had to fight over 30 lawsuits and nearly went out of business but he stuck with it and created one of the most respected companies in America. This is the story of Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“Your people come first, and if you treat them right, they’ll treat the customers right.” – Herb Kelleher
Herb Kelleher (born March 12, 1931) is the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines. After graduating from law school he did what every new lawyer dreamed of. He clerked for the Supreme Court Justice, joined a law firm, and became partner at a firm in his wife’s home state of Texas. He should have been on top of the world but he was instead itching for a new career as an entrepreneur. One evening Kelleher was having drinks with a client, Rollin King, and that night the two used a cocktail napkin to hatch a new business, Southwest Airlines.
Using Kelleher’s legal experience and King’s business background, Southwest Airlines was set up to run only in Texas to avoid having to follow federal price regulations. Kelleher had found a legal loophole and his competition didn’t appreciate it. Kelleher had to fight off over 30 lawsuits before Southwest Airlines was even able to get a plane in the air. But they prevailed and bootstrapped their way from a company with only 4 planes to being one of the most admired companies in America.
Southwest is consistently named one of the top five Most Admired Corporations in America by Fortune magazine, which also called Kelleher perhaps the best CEO in America. It has never experienced an in-flight fatality and continues to enjoy growing success. Southwest is also the only airline to have over 30 consecutive years of profit, despite the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which threatened the rest of the industry. In 2001, Kelleher resigned as CEO and president of Southwest due to a personal battle with prostate cancer.
Action Item #1: Put Your People First
Action Item #2: Focus Everyone on Customer Service
Action Item #3: Hire the Right People
In the beginning, Southwest had just four planes and 70 employees. All of the legal battles had left the company on the verge of closing down. It forced Kelleher to make a difficult decision: he had to either sell one of the planes or lay off some of his employees. He chose to sell the plane. In return, Kelleher asked his employees to cut gate turnaround times from 55 to just 15 minutes. They pulled it off and Kelleher had clearly set the culture for his business.
“I learned it by doing it, and I was scared to death.”
“Sometimes you need a little courage too just to buck popular opinion.”
“The important thing is to take the bricklayer and make him understand that he’s building a home, not just laying bricks.”
Business Ideas – How to Create a Culture, Work Hard, and Make Customers Happy like G Steinbrenner
Today we are going to take a look at how a man went against his father’s wishes to run the family business in order to follow his passion. He went on to pursue his dreams and purchase one of the greatest professional baseball clubs in the history of the game. This is the story of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“I haven’t always done a good job, and I haven’t always been successful, but I know that I have tried.” – George Steinbrenner
George Steinbrenner (born July 4, 1930) went from coaching college football to saving his family’s business and finally owning one of the greatest baseball franchises in history, the New York Yankees. When Steinbrenner started college he chose English literature, which was not what his father wanted him to do. Instead, Henry Steinbrenner wanted George to come back and run the family shipping business. After graduating college, George went in the United States Air Force where he would get his first taste of the business of sports by establishing a sports program in his spare time.
George had no plans on joining the family business or ever owning a professional sports team. After his tour in the Air Force was complete, he went on to join the coaching staff at Northwestern University and then Purdue University, but family problems would take him away from what he loved. He would get a call from his father pleading with him to come home and help prevent the family business from going under. “He told me to get home and get busy,” recalls Steinbrenner. “I wish I could have stayed in coaching. My father never asked that much, but when he did it was an order.”
After successfully saving his family’s shipping company and becoming president of the company within four years, George went against his father’s wishes and left the business to pursue his love of sports. He would go on to buy the Cleveland Pipers, an American Baseball League team, but the league would fold after a few seasons. George would set his goals higher the next time and buy the New York Yankees for $8.7 million in 1973. Today, the New York Yankees are worth more than $1.3 billion and are the most successful professional baseball franchise in history, at the same time making George Steinbrenner one of the greatest sports icons in history.
Action Item #1: Create a Culture
Action Item #2: Earn by Working Hard
Action Item #3: Make the Customers Happy
Since George Steinbrenner’s father did not believe in giving allowances to his children, George and his sisters were set up in a chicken business. They would sell eggs for 50 cents a dozen or chickens to the neighbors to make extra money. They would have to kill the chicken and pluck the feathers if the neighbors wanted to buy a chicken to cook. He did this job from the time he was 9-years-old until he was 15, when his father would decide to send him off to military school.
However, George knew that he would have to give up his portion of the chicken business. Despite the fact that it was family, he had no problem doing whatever it took to make a profit. He was a businessman, bottom line, and he did not let anyone — not even his own sisters — stand in the way of his business aspirations. “I sold my egg company to my sisters for three times what it was worth,” he said. “They’ve never liked me since.”
“There is not enough [time] to accomplish everything you’d like to get done.”
“I detest bankruptcy. To me, it signifies failure — personal failure, corporate failure.”
“I haven’t always done a good job, and I haven’t always been successful, but I know that I have tried.”
Business Ideas – How to Sell Something Like P.T. Barnum
Evan Carmichael discusses how you can sell, promote, and showcase your business like America’s greatest showman, P.T. Barnum.
“Without promotion something terrible happens… nothing!” — P.T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum (July 5, 1810 — April 7, 1891) was an American showman, businessman, and entertainer. Above all else, P.T. Barnum was a salesman and promoter who knew how to get people talking. Today, the legacy of his work lives on in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, still billed as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’
When P.T. Barnum first launched his business, there was heavy competition as many entrepreneurs had set up their own traveling road shows. He knew that in order for his circus to succeed he needed to get people excited about it by being extremely different from everyone else.
Action Item #1: Sell Something Unique
How do you really stack up against your competitors? Are you honestly that different? If you are an average company with an average product selling at an average price then guess what you get? Average results.
To be successful you need to have a point (or points) of differentiation. It has to be something that is noticeable to people who don’t understand your industry. In the circus business you have to get good performers and P.T. Barnum went out of his way to find the best. From the Fiji Mermaid to Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker to General Tom Thumb the Midget P.T. Barnum had a unique product that none of his competitors could match.
Think about if a potential customer found your website and five of your competitors’ websites. Would they get the feeling that you are very different from the others? Be honest with yourself and if the answer is “not really” then it’s time to get to work on creating an offering that is truly unique in your industry,
Action Item #2: Promote, Promote, Promote
You can have the greatest product or service in the world but if nobody knows about it, your business won’t last very long. Whatever market you’re selling to is likely full of competitors. Even if you have a better quality product or service, your competition can get more business than you if they promote themselves properly. To be a successful entrepreneur you need to both provide an outstanding offering (Action Item #1) and promote it so everybody knows about it.
One of my favourite quotes from P.T. Barnum is “Without promotion something terrible happens… nothing!” If you’re not out promoting and selling your product then your competitors are taking your customers from you even if you can provide them with a better option. If you’re not out promoting then you lose and your customers lose.
Promoting your business doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to be a great people-person. You just have to do something unique to stand out. According to the New York Times the average person in a city sees 5,000 ads per day. Unless you’re very very unique and different with your promotion people are going to ignore you. They’re not trying to be mean, we are all just trained to filter things out unless we have a reason to pay attention. Give them that reason and with your next promotion ask yourself: “What would P.T. Barnum do?”
Action Item #3: Showcase Yourself
People like to buy from people, not from companies. Think about your own buying experiences. Would you buy from someone who you can see their picture, learn about their story, and relate to their experiences? Or would you rather buy from ABC company who uses the same stock photography and boring mission statements as everyone else?
P.T. Barnum did a great job of not only promoting his business but himself as a part of it. He was the creative founder who everyone was talking about and wanted to learn more about.
You don’t have to be a daredevil like Richard Branson and balloon around the world (although P.T. Barnum would be proud!) — but it can really help your business if you showcase yourself so that your prospective customers feel like they’re buying from a real human being. Put your picture on your website and in your marketing materials. Tell a brief story as to why you started your business and the problems you’ve been able to help solve for customers. Explain why you’re so proud of your business and what makes you different. It will have a tremendous and long lasting impact on your company’s growth.
Business Ideas – Business Lessons from Jenny Craig (food & service entrepreneur)
Today we’re going to look at how a gym manager mortgaged her house to start a business because she saw a need, moved to Australia, and later sold her business for $600 million. This is the story of Jenny Craig and the top three lessons you can learn from her success.
Action Item #1: Promote, Promote, Promote!
Building a better mousetrap is not enough anymore to get a company off the ground. You need to aggressively promote your business to make sure your customers know that you exist. From advertising and public relations to search engine optimization and social media marketing, you have many opportunities to spread the word about your company and you should never take your foot off the gas!
In the company’s early years, Craig made sure that exactly ten percent of sales was directed back into commercial advertising each and every year. Individual franchises were also expected to spend ten percent of sales, or at least $1,000 a week, on local advertising for their own centres.
They used traditional advertising on television programs, leveraged celebrity endorsements, and created direct mail campaigns. But they also tried many offbeat approaches. As one example, Sid got the company a lot of publicity during one televised international cricket match, where cameras picked up on a sign in the crowd directed at the captain of the English team that read: “See Jenny Craig. Quick.”
Action Item #2: Offer Products and Services
I believe the best way to build a business is to start a service – it’s low cost and gets you close to your customers. Your chances of survival are much higher and you learn what future services and products your clients need. Once you’ve established a base of customers and know exactly what’s missing in the marketplace, you can create your products. You’ve got cashflow from your service business to keep the company running and you’ve got a loyal group of clients who are ready to buy!
Jenny Craig had the same philosophy. Her business started with Jenny Craig centres where they would help clients establish a workout program, offer nutritional guidance, and also give motivational services. Her business grew every year as she added more centres and people to her team. It was a very successful service based business.
Jenny Craig’s big break came when she started offering prepared food products as a part of her offering. She brought on board a highly qualified staff of dieticians, psychologists, and physicians to help her create a menu that was healthy and nutritional. In doing so, Jenny’s Cuisine became a central component to her program. All of her clients were required to purchase these portion and calorie controlled foods, which included over sixty different breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snack options. Jenny’s Cuisine proved so popular that the company’s gross revenues from food sales increased to 91 percent by 1993.
Action Item #3: Never Give Up!
Just like I discussed in my last post, it’s important as an entrepreneur to never give up on your idea. Every business owner will face a moment of crisis which forces you to think whether it’s all worth it – the long hours, the mounting debt, the personal sacrifices. These moments will help define you as an entrepreneur. It’s the founders who stare those moments square in the face and keep on building who go on to be the ultra-successful entrepreneurs.
From losing weight, to starting her own business, to not being able to run her business in America, Craig has proven that with perseverance anything is possible. When the Craigs first sold their chain of Body Contour gyms, they did so in agreement to a non-compete clause. They were not allowed to set up shop again anywhere in the U.S. for two years.
And so, refusing to wait two years before they made their next move, the couple went on a search for their next destination. Where could they begin their new line of fitness centres? What country was similar to the U.S. in terms of diet and fitness levels but presented no language barrier? The Craigs decided on Australia. Their friends thought they were “nuts” but the couple never gave up and turned their new business into a company that sold for $600 million.
Business Ideas – How to Narrow Your Market, Innovate, and Be Efficient like Dov Charney
Today, we’re going to look at how a Canadian entrepreneur went from getting arrested for bootlegging t-shirts to being the largest t-shirt manufacturing in the United States. This is the story of American Apparel founder Dov Charney and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“I knew I could do it differently, and I knew I could turn it around. And I knew there was a solution and there was no way, that kind of passion or can-do spirit; I said there’s no way I’m stopping now.” – Dov Charney
Dov Charney (born January 31, 1969) was born in Montreal, Canada to Jewish parents, but was sent to Wallingford, Connecticut to attend a prestigious prep school to control his behavior. Charney was a self-described hyperactive child and was frustrating his parents with his behavior. He would focus on just about everything else, but the school he was attending. While ignoring school work, he would find a money-making opportunity by purchasing t-shirts at a K-Mart and taking them across the border to Canada, where he would sell them for a profit.
Charney would then close a large order for t-shirts, but the order went south and he would eventually lose more than $100,000. This business disaster would make Charney quit the t-shirt business for a while and go to college. He found that the t-shirt business was calling him again so he dropped out of Tufts University in his senior year to follow his passion. After moving to South Carolina, and getting a $10,000 loan from his father, Charney would start a new t-shirt business in 1989, American Apparel.
Today, American Apparel has over $500 million in revenue and over 11,000 employees. It’s the largest clothing manufacturer in the United States and has almost 300 locations worldwide. In 2004, Charney was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and he’s made quite a return for himself on that initial $10,000 startup loan!
Action Item #1: Narrow the Market
Action Item #2: Innovate, Don’t Exploit
Action Item #3: Efficiency is the Key
Dov Charney was such a hyperactive child that his Canadian parents sent him to a prep school in Connecticut. There he would see many of his classmates selling t-shirts on school grounds. This gave Charney an idea of buying t-shirts from the local K-Mart and taking them across the border into Canada to sell for a profit which happened to be against the law.
During one of his bootlegging excursions he was arrested. “They took me down to Station 10, which doesn’t exist anymore, and after a couple of hours of me yelling, ‘Monsieur, monsieur!’ they let me out and gave me back my cash and my shirts,” recalls Charney. “So what did I do? Headed straight for the Cock ‘n Bull to try and unload the rest of them.” Even getting arrested did not deter Charney from selling his t-shirts.
“America doesn’t need another faceless, institutional apparel company. They need an apparel company that gets it and does it right.”
“Look, I’m not that ethical, but you don’t have to be the most ethical person to know that slavery was wrong.”
“What I’m talking about is the exploitation of human potential instead of the exploitation of humanity.”
Business Ideas – 3 Success Lessons from Madam CJ Walker
Today we are taking a look at a woman that started out life in a slave family. After slavery ended, this woman would build a business and become the first self-made woman millionaire in the United States. This is the story of hair care and cosmetics business entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from her success.
“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.” – Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove (born December 23, 1867) in Delta, Louisiana. Born into a slave family, Walker rose from her humble beginnings to establish herself as the first self-made woman millionaire in America. After experiencing a personal setback, Walker turned her fate around and used that setback to create a fortune. At a time when most African Americans were struggling to find work, Walker pioneered her way to the top of the hair care and cosmetics industries.
Walker would face a host of tragedies throughout her life, such as losing her parents when she was very young, losing her first husband, marrying two more times, but none of these tragedies is what made her look to start her own business. In 1904, crisis would again strike Walker’s life. She had been working so hard and eating so poorly that she began losing her hair. She tried product after product to try and help save her hair, but nothing worked. Later that year, Walker attended a seminar that would change the course of her life and make her do something about her problem.
Walker credits God with having given her the special hair remedy that would launch her business. God, however, could not do anything about the fact that there was already another entrepreneur selling similar products in St. Louis. Not wanting to face the competition head on, Walker decided to take her show on the road. In 1913, Walker bought a house in Harlem and decided to make it her company’s new headquarters. Slowly, the company continued to grow and by 1917, annual conventions were being held by Walker’s agents to train new and old recruits. By the time Walker died in 1919, she was 51 years old and one of the richest women in the country.
Action Item #1: Don’t Let Your Situation Be an Excuse
Action Item #2: Act on Crisis, Don’t Accept It
Action Item #3: Make Perseverance Your Motto
In 1917, Walker commissioned a 34-room mansion to be built for her on the Hudson River. It was her dream house, something she had worked for years to be able to afford. But when area residents found out who their new neighbor was going to be, they were less than happy. “One of the race,” wrote one newspaper, “is invading the domains of New York’s aristocracy.” The New York Times even wrote, “No woman of her race could own such a place. Does she really intend to live there?”
This was only some of the discrimination Walker faced throughout her life. One little-known story is about the time she went to the movie theater only to be charged twice what white people were being charged to see the show. She immediately hired an attorney and sued the movie theater, winning the case. She then went on to build her own movie theater to support the black residents of New York, which became a successful theater and did not discriminate against white residents. Anyone could come see the shows and everyone paid the same ticket price.
“I am not ashamed of my past. I am not ashamed of my humble beginning.”
“I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race.”
“I got my start by giving myself a start.”
Business Ideas – How to Be Enthusiastic Like Mary Kay Ash
Evan Carmichael discusses how you break through with your business like one of the most successful women entrepreneurs of all time, Mary Kay Ash.
“Most successful people are ordinary people with extraordinary determination.” — Mary Kay Ash
Mary Kay Ash (May 12, 1918 — November 22, 2001) was an American businesswoman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. Raised in a time when few women were in business, let alone successful in business, Ash broke down barriers on her rise up to creating a multi-billion dollar operation.
Ash used her $5,000 life savings to open a cosmetics company, Beauty by Mary Kay. Ash had bought the formula for a skin-care cream she was using as well as a storefront in Dallas, and began hiring friends as independent beauty consultants, her term for salespeople.
In its first year, company sales reached $198,000, primarily from sales sessions, or ‘skin care classes’, her sales team would hold in private homes. At the time of Ash’s death, Mary Kay Cosmetics had over 800,000 representatives in 37 countries, with total annual sales over $2 billion at retail.
Action Item #1: Break Down Barriers in Your Way
Starting a business is tough. It can be hard to get customers to believe in a new company and people will doubt your ability to succeed. At times you might even wonder if you made the right decision or if you’re better off going back and getting a job.
Mary Kay Ash was tired of being held back and being told that she was “just thinking like a woman.” Starting her own business was her chance to reach her full potential. According to Ash, “You cannot keep determined people from success. If you place stumbling blocks in their way, they will use them for stepping-stones and climb to new heights.”
No matter what challenges you come up against, remind yourself of why you started your business and what your vision is. Break big barriers down into small chunks and tackle them one by one until the problem is solved. Whatever you do, don’t give up!
Action Item #2: Live by the Golden Rule
Whether you are dealing with customers, suppliers, the media, employees, partners, or someone else who can have a meaningful impact on your business, remember that you’re dealing with a person and people like to be recognized and appreciated.
Mary Kay Ash’s advice is simple: “I have learned to imagine an invisible sign around each person’s neck that says ‘Make me feel important.’ I never cease to be amazed at how positively people react when they’re made to feel important. Everyone wants to be appreciated. So, if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.”
As a business owner there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done which can often cause us to get stressed out and treat people poorly. Try to remember Mary Kay Ash’s rule and make the people around you feel important and appreciated. You’ll see far better business results and you’ll have a lot more fun as well!
Action Item #3: Be Enthusiastic
Your business idea doesn’t have to be the most creative or original. What can make the difference between success and failure is your enthusiasm for what you’re selling. When you’re enthusiastic you’ll be more convincing and you’ll have an easier time convincing people to take action.
According to Mary Kay, “Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. If you act enthusiastic, you become enthusiastic. A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one.”
Running a business can be a grind and sometimes we can lose our own enthusiasm for the company. When this happens remind yourself again why you started the business and try to get excited about the next meeting you’re going to have. If others sense how excited you are they are more likely to be convinced and want to get involved. This in turn will give you more energy and enthusiasm so don’t waste the opportunity!
Business Ideas: Coming Up With a Business Idea Like Inventor King Gillette
Today we’re going to look at how a discouraged inventor with no money and 13 years of failure turned his life around, became a millionaire, and had his company eventually sell for $57 billion. This is the story of King Gillette from the Gillette Razor Company and the top 3 lessons you can learn from his success.
“The razor was looked upon as a joke by all my friends. A common greeting was, ‘Well, Gillette, how’s the razor?’ If I had been technically trained, I would have quit.” – King Gillette
Action Item #1: Don’t Let “Experts” Tell You What You Can’t Do
As an entrepreneur it’s important to seek out advice. After all, you don’t have all the answers and you can’t do everything by yourself. Don’t be embarrassed about asking “stupid” questions – it’s the fastest way to learn. Be careful though not to take anyone’s advice as being the only way to do something. Make sure that it makes sense for you and keep looking for answers until you find one that will work.
When Gillette first came up with the idea for a razor with disposable blades he was elated but he needed metallurgists to help him make the product. He went right to the top and enlisted the help of experts from the prestigious university, M.I.T. But, when he told them what he wanted, they told him it was impossible.
According to Gillette: “The razor was looked upon as a joke by all my friends. A common greeting was, ‘Well, Gillette, how’s the razor?’ If I had been technically trained, I would have quit.” Unwilling to throw in the towel, Gillette kept looking until he found someone who believed it was possible and who could help him. He got his patent for it in 1901 and proved the experts wrong.
Action Item #2: Leverage Other Brands to Grow Your Business
In the company’s early days, Gillette focused his marketing on the uniqueness of his razors compared to those that had come before. As knockoffs hit the market he had to change his approach. So he began cultivating a number of brand associations. Gillette ran ads that featured testimonials from the likes of baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner. Wagner was the most popular baseball player of his generation and the celebrity endorsement proved to be a huge success for Gillette’s sales.
Gillette started a new trend in the world of advertising. No longer did an ad only speak to the product’s benefits. Instead, Gillette began to associate his products with an image of the lifestyle he wanted to convey. He understood that people were not just buying a product; they were buying into an idea. Under Gillette, shaving went from being a mundane morning ritual for most men, to being an important experience; with the right razor — a Gillette razor — shaving could transform you into a powerful, athletic and attractive man, just like the sports figures in his ads. That idea took Gillette from being just another razor company to being one of a kind.
Action Item #3: Form Partnerships to Build Your Customer Base
Gillette was always looking for an angle to promote his business and stay ahead of the competition. When World War I hit, he made a vital decision: give a Gillette razor to every soldier in the service. He sold razors to the government at cost and let them distribute. They designed a special metal-cased shaving kit for every American soldier, with ads touting that “every man in khaki ought to have one.’
The U.S. government took Gillette up on its offer and ordered 3.5 million razors and 36 million razor blades for all of its soldiers. As a result, Gillette had to hire more than 500 new employees, who worked around the clock to get the order filled. But Gillette’s suggestion was not just about being a one-time promotional scheme. By supplying American troops with his razors, he was securing his future. He had created a huge base of customers who had grown accustomed to the Gillette razor and who would keep coming back for blade refills long after the War was over.
Business Ideas: Productivity in the Workplace for Entrepreneurs
One of the most common questions I get asked is: How can I be more productive? There just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Today we’re going to talk about how you can eliminate, automate, and delegate your work to help you focus on your highest priority tasks, what I like to call CEO tasks.
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the tasks that you do on a regular basis. This means everything from selling to customers, working with suppliers, invoicing, managing your cash flow, etc.
The second step is to bundle all your tasks into common themes. For example, making cold calls, attending networking events, and doing your email campaigns can all be under Sales & Marketing. Paying your staff, billing your clients, and keeping track of your expenses can all be called Admin. Continue classifying all your tasks until you have 5-7 main categories.
The third step is to figure out how much time you’re spending in each category. For example, you might spend 20 hours per week on Sales & Marketing, 10 hours per week on Admin, and so on.
Step 1: Eliminate
Step 2: Automate
Step 3: Delegate
The order of Eliminate, Automate, Delegate is very important.
Eliminate is first. You don’t want to automate or delegate something that can be eliminated because it’s a non-productive task. Automate is next. You don’t want to delegate something that can be automated because it is more expensive and more prone to error.
Follow the steps I laid out to put your regular tasks into groups and then Eliminate, Automate, and Delegate everything away until you’re working only on the top priority CEO tasks.
It all starts with that first little step.
Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From Pierre Omidyar
Today we’re going to look at how an entrepreneur followed his passion for computers and in one weekend created the code for a new website that would go on to become one of the most well known sites in the world. This is the story of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“It is not really work if you are having fun…that was the case with me.” – Pierre Omidyar
Pierre Omidyar (born June 21, 1967) is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist/economist, and the founder/chairman of eBay. Growing up he became fascinated with computers and often skipped gym glass in school to play on their computers. After graduating high school and university, he went to work for an Apple subsidiary to develop software for the Macintosh. Omidyar soon felt the entrepreneur itch and wanted to start his own business.
When Omidyar was 28 years old, he stayed in front of his computer for the entire Labour Day long weekend and wrote the original code for eBay. Originally called “Auction Web”, Omidyar wanted to change the name to echobay and drove to Sacramento to register the name. When he arrived, he found echobay was already registered so he decided to go with eBay on the spot instead of having to make a return trip.
Today, eBay has revenues of over $9 billion and Omidyar serves as its Chairman. He has an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion making him the 50th richest person in the world and it all began with one long weekend writing code and launching a new website.
Action Item #1: Just Go For It
Action Item #2: Follow Your Passion
Action Item #3: Be Nice
eBay was originally hosted on a website that Omidyar had created with information about the ebola virus. The site originally allowed buyers and sellers to connect for free but as the site grew, he had to charge a small fee. Omidyar hoped that the transaction fees would eventually be enough to cover his website hosting costs.
“You should pursue your passion. If you’re passionate about something and you work hard, then I think you will be successful.”
“You have to really believe in what you’re doing, be passionate enough about it so that you will put in the hours and hard work that it takes to actually succeed there, and then you’ll be successful.”
“I was raised with the notion that you can do pretty much do anything you want. I always kind of just went ahead and tried things.”
Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From Calvin Klein
Today we’re going to look at how a young entrepreneur had to decide between launching a fashion business or supermarket business. He chose fashion and created on of the most recognizable names in the industry. This is the story of Calvin Klein and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
“I think fantasies are for the birds. If there’s something I want, nothing stops me.” – Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein (born 1942) is an American fashion designer and founder of the company that bears his name. As a young child instead of playing sports like the other kids, Klein spent his time indoors teaching himself how to sketch and sew designs. He didn’t have many friends and would often accompany his mother on shopping trips throughout the city on her quest for discount clothing.
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Klein was practically broke, still working part-time at his father’s grocery store, and decided he would take his $2,000 life savings and start his own business. He started by designing a line of coats. The company’s first major step to success came by accident a year after its inception, when a businessman got off the elevator on the wrong floor and happened to wander into in Klein’s office. This businessman turned out to be a coat-buyer from the major department store Bonwit Teller. After placing an order for $50,000 worth of coats, he told Klein, “Tomorrow you will have been discovered.” In its first year, the company booked $1 million worth of business.
In 2002, Klein sold his company for $400 million and $30 million in stock. Before the sale, Calvin Klein Ltd. had 900 employees and worldwide sales of over $3 billion.
Action Item #1: Be The Expert
Action Item #2: Reach A Wide Audience
Action Item #3: Stay Focused
” I think fantasies are for the birds. If there’s something I want, nothing stops me.”
” You can’t advertise for one group. Otherwise, you end up having a very small business!”
“Doing everything as well as possible meant survival.”
Business Ideas – Akio Morita Business Lessons (Sony Company Founder)
Evan Carmichael discusses how you can model the success of Sony founder, Akio Morita.
“It had to be something different, something that nobody else was making.” – Akio Morita
Action Item #1: Trust Your Gut
There’s never enough information to make a decision that you can be 100% sure of. By the time the information becomes fully available it will be too late – either someone else would have scooped the idea from you or the window of opportunity will have closed. As entrepreneurs we have to trust our gut when making decisions using the best information that we have available.
In 1978 Sony developed a prototype portable product that would allow people to listen to cassette tapes while they were on long flights. The project was put on hold as market research indicated that no consumer would buy a tape recorder that did not have the capacity to record and that earphones would hold the product back as they were seen to be irritating and potentially associated with hearing loss.
Despite the advice given to him by his marketing department, Morita chose instead to trust his gut. He told Sony staff that they were going to create a worldwide culture of headphone wearers and in 1979 Sony released the Walkman. It went on to sell over 330 million units. Morita then gave the following advice for business owners: “Carefully watch how people live, get an intuitive sense as to what they might want and then go with it. Don’t do market research.”
Action Item #2: Find A Good Company Name and Product Name
The names you choose for your company and products are what people remember you by. If they’re too hard to pronounce, difficult to spell, or not easy to recall then you lose out on the opportunity of having customers talk about you to their friends and coming back as repeat buyers.
Sony’s original company name was Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha. Long and difficult to remember in English, the company decided it would need to change its name to better serve the North American market. Trying to find a new name, Morita found that ‘sonus’ is the Latin word for sound. He thought its meaning was appropriate considering their industry. However, he didn’t think that it was catchy enough. Morita decided to combine ‘sonus’ with ‘Sonny,’ a nickname that had become popular amongst American kids. Morita thought ‘Sonny’ would help portray the image of the company as a youthful one, with lots of energy and a bright future ahead. With that, the Sony Corporation was formed.
Similarly, when Sony first released the Walkman, Sony’s U.S. division considered the name ‘Walkman’ to be improper English, and changed the product to the ‘Soundabout’ for the American market. Other divisions also began using different names until Morita put his foot down and insisted that everyone use the same name. “Walkman” became such a success that it’s listed as a word in almost every major dictionary.
Action Item #3: Look After Your People
If you’re building a company beyond yourself you’ll quickly realize how important it is to have the right people in place and to look after them. Money is important to them but don’t forget that people want to feel appreciated, challenged, and be a part of a team that’s working on important problems. Here’s Akio Morita’s advice:
“The most important mission for a manager is to develop a healthy relationship with his employees, to create a family-like feeling within the corporation, a feeling that employees and managers share the same fate. We will try to create conditions where persons could come together in a spirit of teamwork, and exercise to their heart’s desire their technological capacity.”
“I believe people work for satisfaction. I believe it is a big mistake to think that money is the only way to compensate a person for his work. People need money, but they also want to be happy in their work and proud of it.”