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“No Brown M&M’s!” Hits Kindle Best-Seller List

25 Apr

Thank you to everyone who has helped our book to move up the charts! The screenshot below shows our progress—the ebook has hit the Kindle best-seller lists for the New Business and Home-Based Business categories. It’s not THE best-seller list, but hey, it’s a start. As soon as we hit the Top 20, we’ll do something special as a giveaway. Free bags of M&M’s with no brown ones, maybe?

(By the way, it may not show this right now if you go to the Amazon listing, because they update their best-seller lists every hour. Alas, fame is fleeting….)

Screen-shot of "No Brown M&Ms" as Kindle best-seller

David Lee Roth Tells the Story Behind the Title of Our Book

25 Apr

Give the Occasional Unexpected Extra

3 Apr

I was exiting a parking garage I frequent not long ago, on the first day of Spring, and was surprised to see the attendant out at the exit gate. (The garage uses a ticket system, so typically the attendant is in the booth awaiting the occasional confused patron or gate malfunction.)

When I got to the gate, the attendant said, “Happy Spring!” and handed me a small pack of Skittles candies. The package had a sticker on it that read:

Penn Parking Welcomes Spring! Thank you for your support!

As corny as it sounds, that made my day. And it wasn’t even a bad day before that.

But it’s that little unexpected extra. It makes a difference in spirit, but costs little. In this case, each packet of Skittles cost maybe a dime. The cost of the stickers was probably less than a penny each. There was a little time in making them and sticking them on. But that’s it. My guess is, most of the parking patrons that day were as happily surprised as I was. Something like this, as minimal as it is, can be the difference in a customer coming back again and again.

KISS Love Gun toy

One of KISS's many surprises in their 1970s albums: the cardboard pop-gun included in their "Love Gun" album.

It reminds me of when I was a kid in the ’70s and eagerly awaited each new KISS album. One reason was that they were masters of what I’m talking about. Each album had something special in it—stickers, a poster, a surprise of some sort. While many bands do something of the kind now, KISS was nearly alone in this at the time (and largely mocked for their commercialism).

So, what can your business offer on occasion, your own little unexpected extra that customers and clients would remember and tell others about?

Bon Jovi Celebrates 50th Birthday Today

2 Mar
Jon Bon Jovi in the 1980s and now

Jon Bon Jovi, then and now

A 50th birthday seems like a good time to reflect on your life so far, and Jon Bon Jovi certainly has nothing to regret in terms of accomplishments. He’s led one of the most successful rock bands for over 30 years, which has sold well over 100 million albums; he’s amassed a net worth of roughly $120 million; he’s received acclaim and awards for his solo albums; he’s enjoyed cross-over success on a number of songs; and he’s had a bit of fun dabbling in television and film acting.

And the fruits of his labor have extended to charitable ventures as well. He started the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation in 2006 in an effort to help America’s homeless, hungry, and poor. Then in late 2011, with his wife and personal chef, he opened Soul Kitchen, a “community restaurant” in New Jersey to offer those with little or no money the chance to enjoy better food through a “pay what you can” model. (The food is mainly donated by Whole Foods, with much of the vegetables grown on the property.) The concept allows people with low incomes to enjoy a restaurant meal that’s not fast food, while people with more means can pay a suggested price, or more, to help those who can’t. Incidentally, Panera Bread has been successfully operating several restaurants under the same model for a few years.

Bon Jovi exemplifies a number of key traits that mark every successful entrepreneur:

  • Hard work—He is a noted workaholic among his band and peers, diligently tending to his music business and other ventures.
  • Ethics—He doesn’t use his industrious nature as an excuse to run over people, treating those around him with due respect, especially his band mates who as a result have mostly been with him since the beginning.
  • Brand management—His flagship venture, his band, has been handled magnificently over the years, perhaps only matched (at that level) by U2, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. Though his and the band’s look and music has evolved over the years to keep up with the times, their core values have not. Bon Jovi’s middle-class, blue-collar, Jersey roots still run through all that he does both on stage and off stage; he never relocated to Los Angeles and adopted a Sunset Boulevard lifestyle.
  • Leadership—Aside from his solid ethical grounding, his band members attribute their loyalty to his leadership. He has a strong vision for Bon Jovi (the band) but has also allowed the others their creative room to breathe in side projects. He’s demanding, and yet doesn’t expect his band mates to share his workaholic nature.

Though he’s now eligible for membership in AARP, it’s highly unlikely Bon Jovi will be retiring anytime soon. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he has another 50 years of meaningful contribution to music, business, and society in him.

Your business is your lifestyle

6 Feb
Gwen Stefani

Stefani rocks music and business

“The best thing about our success is that it afforded us our lifestyle. I never have to wear a suit. I never have to wear nylons. I can do my hair pink. I can do whatever I want to.” — Gwen Stefani, singer in No Doubt and founder of fashion line L.A.M.B., with an estimated net worth of $80 million

It’s easy to forget that when you’re starting a business you’re starting a lifestyle. Your business may be an extension of your lifestyle (e.g., you’re an avid skateboarder starting a line of skate gear), but if not, you’ll probably find that your venture and lifestyle will ultimately blend. This is why it’s so important to do something you love. Your business will pull you into circles of people, connections with organizations, a variety of environments, and (hopefully) a blessing of customers and fans. The sum of these will be a major component of how you experience your life.

Often, budding entrepreneurs and those considering a business venture forget (or don’t realize) this. The focus tends to fall more on making money, getting out of an existing job, or another motivation that has nothing to do with how you want to live your life. There are many, many benefits in being a successful entrepreneur. But none probably top the ability to create the lifestyle you want. And I don’t mean the trappings of nice homes, cool cars, fabulous fashion, vacations, or the typical “lifestyles of the rich and famous” visions. Yes, those things can be great, but it’s the “life space” in between where you truly live—where you are fulfilled, where you feel meaningful, where you deeply feel your purpose on earth.

When you build a business that creates the lifestyle you want, you create a circle. The business nourishes your lifestyle, your lifestyle nourishes your personal fulfillment, and your personal fulfillment nourishes your business.

Happy Birthday, Frank Zappa

22 Dec

Frank Zappa

Today would’ve been Frank Zappa’s 71st birthday. Because he was so bizarre and unconventional for his time, many people don’t realize he was quite a savvy entrepreneur.

Frank Zappa is perhaps the epitome of the rock star as businessman. The touchstone of his philosophy has always been to read the small print and, preferably, help to draft it himself. Zappa, right from the start of his career, has been careful to ensure that he knows what’s going on around his musical activities. — “Frank Zappa: Portrait of an Artist as Businessman,” Cream Magazine, January 1972

Zappa sold encyclopedias to make ends meet while starting his music career. Then, he landed a $1,500 gig (significant money in those days) to score the music for a film. From those earnings, he started a recording studio, which led to his band Mothers of Invention, which led to his successful and lucrative career.

Worth noting as well that, while bands forming their own labels is not so unusual these days, Frank Zappa was one of the earliest rock stars to do so.

Entrepreneur or dabbler?

14 Dec

One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is taking on too much at once. Or I should say, taking on too much before you’re successful at one thing. This is understandable because, after all, the DNA of entrepreneurs compels us to start stuff. The problem, though, is the confusing message it often sends out to the world, as well as the dissipation of energy and attention.

I met a woman a few years ago who was selling custom scarves online, writing a book, looking to start a cafe, and getting her real estate license. I forget what else she mentioned. While I commend her Renaissance spirit, purely from a business standpoint (and she did say she wanted to be financially successful, not just have fun) she was making it harder on herself. My guess is, few people at the party where I met her walked away with a clear idea of what this woman’s about, other than being a dabbler.

If her pursuits where all under one brand umbrella, then it might be different. Conceivably, she could tie two of those ventures together, like selling custom scarves and opening a cafe, but that’s about it. The book could tie in, if the intended reader were very much within her target audience for the cafe and scarves — but that would still be pushing it.

The point is, 99% of the time, success comes to those who focus on a very singular pursuit to the exclusion of other opportunities or interests. I think this is a major, unspoken challenge for many budding entrepreneurs. We tend to think that if we throw enough stuff against the wall, something will stick. But look at the stories of successful entrepreneurs (and rock stars), and you’ll see this is not their story. Mark Zuckerberg was very singularly focused on making Facebook a success, as was Gene Simmons with KISS. Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online retailer only selling books, while Bono helped start U2 to only make great, socially conscious music.

The good news is, you can keep your additional interests and dreams close to your heart, because success in one area will open doors later in others. Amazon now sells everything. Bono promotes and participates in many ventures. Gene Simmons has a TV show. And Mark Zuckerberg is trying to tackle problems in the U.S. education system. Not likely, however, that any of them could’ve achieved their additional (and possibly more meaningful) successes without having focused on making their first venture successful.

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