• You are here:
  • Home/
  • Blog

The New Small-Business Marketing Mindset for Branding Your Business

November 03, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Karen Leland


A decade ago, if you were fortunate enough to be interviewed by The Wall Street Journal or New York Times or appear on Oprah, you were considered to have hit the jackpot — in PR terms, at any rate. But this isn’t your daddy’s small-business marketing.

The pervasiveness of social media has led to a level playing field where the old marketing and PR mindset — which favored the lucky few — is dead.

Today, entrepreneurs and small businesses that are clearly branded, and consistent in their marketing efforts, can generate big buzz even without getting on a top-ten TV show or being interviewed by a prestigious newspaper.

The bottom line is that it no longer takes a big, complicated and expensive marketing plan to get word out about your book, business or product. What it does require is a persistent approach to promotion.

Take for example the world of book publishing. In the distant past, the publishers themselves took responsibility for promoting the book. They would do the legwork of sending out press releases and following up to secure interviews and exposure for the author. Of course, the highest-profile authors got the most PR support from the publisher, and the larger pool of smaller fish received just a few months of minimal PR support. 

In the interest of getting their own books sold, many authors still hired a PR firm at their own expense — with an average cost ranging from $20,000 – $40,000 for a four-month campaign. The results were all over the map, and, once the four months were up, the book was not considered new or fresh enough to promote further — at least not with any intensity.

Fast forward. Most authors today (even if their books are traditionally published vs. self) rightfully expect that the lion’s share of promotion for their book lands squarely in their laps. These authors, with the support of webmasters, online services and marketing consultants, can run a self-managed campaign on a reduced budget of $10,000 – $15,000.

In addition to reduced costs, the big change in marketing a book brought about by the Web is that the window for hawking a book has grown from four months to years. For books whose topics are evergreen in nature, there is almost no limit on how long a book can be promoted — especially online.

In the same fashion, small-business marketing success doesn’t hinge on a few hot hits to a huge audience but on hundreds or thousands of smaller hits targeted to just the right audience for your business, book or product.

Many small-business owners find it difficult to shift out of the old paradigm, since the allure of the most popular, biggest, most well-known media outlets is so deeply ingrained.

I recently had a conversation with a potential client who only wanted reviews of her new product launch with blogs that received monthly hits numbering in the millions. It took some convincing to help her understand that a blog targeting her perfect audience profile, but with only 10,000 hits a month, might be worth far more to her in terms of sales and exposure. 

The former hit TV show Oprah was a great example. In its heyday it was the holy grail of marketing and PR, and every new client — regardless of their topic, business or product, level of expertise or uniqueness of idea — would boldly declare, “My goal is to be on Oprah.”

Yes, while it could be a huge business boon to be on Oprah (full disclosure: I was on as an expert guest based on one of my books), it wasn’t the be-all, end-all of publicity everyone imagined it to be.

To begin with, getting on the show in the first place was extremely difficult (the realm of the lucky few) and could take months, if not years. For those who did succeed in being booked (including those with multiple appearances), it often did not turn out to be the panacea that cured all their promotional ills. Guests whose books and products were a perfect fit for the Oprah audience had strong results; for others, it was a great credibility builder but did not necessarily translate into sales or business.

What’s the small-business PR and marketing bottom line?

You don’t have to wait for “the big sticks” of media to deem your work worthy of attention. You can take the initiative and go after a greater volume of smaller media outlets — both online and off — that are more specifically targeted to your audience.

Just remember, in today’s 24/7 media mania, small-business PR and marketing are not a sprint but a marathon, and the persistent many — not the lucky few — are the ones winning.


Karen Leland is the President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. Her clients include Apple, LinkedIn, American Express, Twitter and many others. She is the best-selling author of eight business books and a columnist for Entreprneur.comShe can be reached at

Becoming an Entrepreneur: Leveraging the Power of Influence to Grow Your Business

October 29, 2015 / Leave a comment / by JIll Lublin


The best way for an entrepreneur to build or expand their business is to become influential. In other words, you need to put across to others that your goods or services can improve their businesses or their lives.

How do you become influential?

Simply, get noticed.

In this article I'll share a thing or two I've picked up along the way as a PR expert, that can greatly increase the influence you have in getting noticed for all the right reasons. 

Influential attraction is the most powerful way to drive your business, increase your profitability, and grow your networth. Elements such as: 

- Distinguishing yourself from the competition

- Creating your 'wow' factor using publicity

- Being completely present in each moment

- Connecting personably to build lasting relationships

- Building and using an effective network

- Keeping a positive outlook

- Holding integrity high

- Overcoming discomfort and fears

- And being of service to others are some great ways to lay the tracks for attracting attention. 

This being influential stuff is a full-time job; it’s a continual process that starts when you step outside in the morning and continues until you switch off the lights at night.

People watch you; they observe how you act, what you do, how you work, and how well you perform. They listen to what others say about you and they follow your exploits.



So those are great big picture influence tips. But what about in the moment, such as influence in a conversation?

To be influential in communicating, is to first be an excellent listener and make yourself understood.

Smart and accomplished individuals are especially prone to using jargon and big, uncommon words. They know what they’re talking about and assume that others do also. However, jargon confuses most people and turns them off. Unfortunately, some people use such lingo to impress, but it usually has the opposite effect by boring or confusing.

Break your use of industory code by speaking with people outside your field. Ask them directly if they understood you, if you're completely clear, and how you could have said it better. Using language such as "does that make sense" creates an opportunity for your listener to provide feedback comfortably. 

Identify your mistakes and, most importantly don’t repeat them. Getting external feedback forces you to engage with people outside of your field and to see if you can clearly get your message across.

Taking initiative is also another great way to be influential.  

Success usually doesn’t occur in isolation, it tends to be a byproduct of other actions; it must be generated.  

Take chances, go against the grain, try something new.

Explore new directions; combine items that already exist in ways that have not been tried before.

Find how you could take what you’re doing and make it new and different. Try turning it inside out, upside down, on its side, or even break it in two. See how you can make it more exciting, compelling, and have more benefit to you and your customers.  

Playing it safe will provide some results, but to set yourself apart, you have to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. You have to keep pushing, moving forward, and thinking. 

Turn to your fantasies and ask, “What if?” Banish logic and reason to the back of your mind. Develop ideas and objectives, deal in possibilities, and then explore ways to make them work.



For good measure I've added some helpful tips as it relates to working with your business partner and teams: 

  • Know yourself — your strengths and weaknesses. To make a strong connection, you must be able to clearly express what you bring to the partnership; your talents and abilities. If you know your shortcomings, you understand the type of help you need and who to form liaisons with. 
  • Know what you want to create and accomplish — your short-term and long-term goals. The most ideal blending of talent won’t be productive for you if you and your partner’s goals are opposed. You may want to build a solid, long-term career, while your partner is interested in making a big, one-time score and get out of the business.
  • Be willing to ask others if they would want to work with you or if they know others who would be a good match for you. If you expect others to approach you, prepare for a long wait. Don’t expect magic to magically appear. Prime the pump and see what flows.
  • Be open to possibilities. People may not want to go in the direction you have in mind. They often have their own agendas that they want to pursue. The fact that they have clear ideas and objectives should not eliminate them as potential partners. If you're otherwise well matched, see how you could both fulfill your needs. Also be open to venturing in new directions, providing that they don’t force you too far a field.


So now it’s up to you, so don’t settle for the ordinary – go out there and be influential!

The Master Key Entrepreneurial Skill: Accentuate The Positive and Illuminate The Negative

October 01, 2015 / Leave a comment / by David Corbin

An entrepreneur never likes surprises that can upset or damage their business or life. Yet, surprises show up, and sometimes they’re pretty lousy game changers.

The good news is that these challenges can be predicted, mitigated or eliminated.  

Accentuate The Positive and Illuminate The Negative. These are actually two separate concepts: Accentuate The Positive and Illuminate The Negative. Placed together, we call this the Illuminate Model; an entrepreneurial skill used to stave off many painful ‘surprises’ and achieve greater results.  

Take a look at the bookshelves at the major book stores –  There are literally thousands of books and chapters on the subject of Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) and for good reason; there's a high correlation between a PMA and happiness, success and achievement. It’s a no brainer.

Now look at Illuminate The Negative. Why on earth would anyone want to do that? There certainly aren’t volumes of books and chapters on that concept.  What could this possibly mean and what’s the value to the business professional?

Let's face it, negatives pop up in life and that’s a fact. Like weeds, they need no watering to grow, no care and attention to thrive, they just pop up and take on a life of their own. So, what do we do?

If you are like most people you probably try to avoid them like the plague. But nowhere in the PMA literature does it suggest that we ignore, suppress or eliminate the negatives. 

Fact is the more you keep the negatives in the dark, the more likely they grow. Like mushrooms they seem to multiply faster in dark environments. And that’s the breeding ground for issues and challenges to grow up large enough to jump up and bite you where it hurts. And that’s where many of these ‘negative surprises’ come from.

Yet when we illuminate these issues as they come up, we’ve found that, like a Vampire, they often disappear when illuminated in the light of day.

Hence the name - ILLUMINATE!  Shine the light on the negative situation or issue and confront it head on. Rather than turning your back on it, point your nose at it and face it- literally.

In life, in business, in relationships, chances are that ‘we can’t solve everything we face and we can’t solve anything unless we face it”.

Since time immemorial a common thread running between those who succeed, innovate and achieve their dreams is one word: courage.

The courage to face fears as well as the courage to face the unknown. And why do people shy away from addressing these negative issues? Having worked with thousands of people over the years, we’ve observed that most seem to shy away from negatives because they just don’t have the resources to ‘solve them’, ‘cure them’ or ‘make them go away’.

The Illuminate The Negative Model has three simple steps; simple but not always easy. Your effectiveness with these steps is a function of your courage, confidence and comfort with vulnerability… especially if you don't immediately have the resources of time, money or knowledge.

Illuminate the Negative is a three step model for entrepreneurial success.


1. Face It

When confronted with a negative situation, challenge or threat, take note of it and assume that it’s real. It might not be… but that’s for you to decide after serious consideration because it’s data. And it’s always dangerous to dismiss this information without consideration. The risk/reward equation here is enormous.

If you manage or supervise others who bring a ‘negative’ issue to you, you're strongly advised to take it seriously. Face it. Acknowledge it and give thanks to the bearer of this information. Be open with yourself and others. If you don’t agree, for example, that the negative observation is valid, be honest and say so. Then, commit to following up and considering it care-fully… and, for goodness sake, do it! There is no greater way to demoralize and disenfranchise an employee than to placate them.

One creative entrepreneur we worked with created and memorized the following statement for this situation, “…and while I don’t see it that way right now I hereby commit to considering your viewpoint very carefully because I really respect your opinion. So let’s regroup on this on…..”

Create a habit in your life to allow for and even ‘celebrate’ the realization, recognition and awareness of these seemingly negatives issues because they can be the starting point of a significant breakthrough.


2. Follow it

Play a game of investigator and follow clues as to what caused it, what and who it effects, what’s keeping it alive and whether it’s worth the deployment of time, attention and other resources to mitigate.


3. Fix it

Here you want to put in the systems that address the issue, to reduce or eliminate its impact and influence. And it’s not always a ‘fix’ per se, it’s often a calibration of the impact. Either way, it’s a significant improvement as you go on your way.


Start right now. What are you in need of illuminating? What might be holding you back right now? Ask yourself. Ask your confidants. What is it that might be a sticking point for your desired result right now?

So now when you or one of your confidants discovers an area where there may be some avoidance or denial in your life…. situate yourself in a quiet place, get out a notepad, break out your new entrepreneurial skill and Illuminate away; Face It, Follow It and Fix It.

The Master Key to Entrepreneurial Success? Maybe it’s an overstatement. But count on this; when you put this model to use…Illuminate the Negative in a Positive light, and do it courageously, honestly and with vulnerability, you will expand in all areas of your business.



10 Reasons to Protect Your Intellectual Property

September 22, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Jason Webb

When it comes to protecting your Intellectual Property business owners need to be on the up and up. 

But why does someone need to protect their IP? 

Faculty member, and IP attorney Jason Webb outlines Ten Reasons to Protect Your Intellectual Property

I found the points Jason mentions made me think outside the box, and rethink the importance of protecting IP as a business owner. My summary is below, and I highly recommend reading Jason's article for a more detailed explanation. 

The 10 Reasons are:

10) Control 

Whoever has the right, has the control. It's that simple.

9) Ownership/Legitimacy

As the legitimate owner of your IP gain respect and have influence on those who can help you move your business forward. 

8) Attraction

A passive benefit that helps to attract talent, alliances, customers and more.

7) Free 'Invisible' Defense 

Every patent or trademark an attorney will search results in them protecting the rights of the patent or trademark owner - for free.

6) Leverage 

Create win-win situations when professional negotiations and conflicts arise.

5) Cost Reduction 

Save time and money (time is money of course) by reducing the likelihood of being involved in litigations.

4) Greater Profits

IP owners typically have higher margins than those who sell commodities or unprotected goods/services.

3) Strong Exit Opportunities 

When moving into your exit strategy, investors are looking for the assets that can be transferred and will survive if you left the company. 80% or more of those assets can be your intellectual property. Its a matter of earning $200K or $1M for your company - the difference is protected IP.

2) Big Dog Respect 

If you want to play big, you've gotta protect big - thus earning the respect of the 'Big Dogs' in your industry.

1) Relevance 


September Dohrmann | CEO of CEO Space International 

7 Tips to Finding the Perfect Entrepreneurial Development Community

September 18, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Dr. David Gruder

Back in 2010, after three decades of being a successful entrepreneur, I found myself searching for resources in entrepreneurial development that could help me fill in my business gaps. I knew what some of the gaps were - and I also knew that I didn’t know what I didn't know. I needed help. 

Then one day, someone sent me a Facebook Friend request. After accepting I started receiving notifications of a local meetings for an entrepreneurial development community I had never heard of.

After a few months of ignoring the notifications, I suddenly felt compelled to attend one of the meetings.

At first I walked away thinking it was either a quantum breakthrough in entrepreneur development or it was the latest snake oil. 

Fortunately, I keep an open mind and I found myself discovering something far more useful than snake oil. I found the tools I needed to fill in my business gaps (known and unknown)... and then some. 

Over the years I've discovered seven elements that make the perfect entrepreneurial development community and I believe others could benefit from knowing what I've learned. 



Find an organization that can help you hyper-grow from each stage of your business. Seek a place whose mission is not only to serve its community but to demonstrate that businesses can be highly profitable through effective collaboration instead of dysfunctional competition. (Which is totally in alignment with how I like to roll.) 



Don’t just seek a skills development organization. Seek one that’s also 'heart-based' of like-minded entrepreneurs and experts who support one another as human beings and who are committed to creating success with others. 



An entrepreneur community is only as good as its members that are integrious, collaborative and successful. The best way to safeguard that kind of culture is through acquiring its members mostly by word of mouth and by encourage personal vetting of each prospect for suitability. 



Entrepreneurs fail because they don’t know what they don’t know and are unwilling to discover potential gaps. Seek a community that provides an industry-leading blend of full-spectrum entrepreneur knowledge & practical skills development.



Knowledge and skills mean nothing if you don’t know how to apply them and what to watch out for. This is why it’s so important for entrepreneurs to be able to consult with experts in all aspects of business development. Select a community that provides unlimited access to the experts (speakers) as part of your membership. 



So you’ve got knowledge, skills, and top-quality advising. But how are you going to make the contacts your business requires in each stage of its development? A top quality entrepreneur community revolves around collaborative networking processes.

Unfortunately typical trade shows don’t always provide this. Find a community whose networking approach can open virtually any door your business will need access to at each point in its development — not just the connections it needs today.



A business isn’t built in a week or a month or a year.  A lifetime membership type of set up (that meets multiple times a year) is one that’s continually there for you.

In other words, it serves you as your business continues to evolve from one developmental phase to the next; from concept through exit.

Entrepreneurs ordinarily stay with their business for anywhere between five years and the rest of their lives. And if they exit after only 5-10 years they most frequently go on to start another business. Therefore, anything less than lifetime membership is not an entrepreneur development organization or community, it’s an attend-and-forget-it event. If you’re serious about entrepreneurship, look for a lifetime membership organization.

The one I found was what I had secretly always wanted but had never believed existed.

With that said, I've come to the understanding that if one is serious about building a successful career as an entrepreneur they owe it to themselves to find an Entrepreneur Development Community that supports them 100% in accomplishing that goal. 

Authentic Leadership: 4 Principles that Create a High Impact Business

September 09, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Bill Stierle


Creating a high impact business requires an authentic leader that fosters loyal teams, builds trust with new clients, and inspires hard work and efficiency.

Yet, in business we run into many challenges that can create emotional charges for us as individuals.

For example, it can feel frustrating when learning a new software program, or become angry with teams that are performing below ability, or we can get annoyed when someone asks about bookkeeping details when we're brainstorming in a strategic planning meeting.

There's a way to use emotions and needs as tools to develop an authentic leadership that can replace the 'driven problem solver'. 

With these four principles of emotional intelligence’s you can create communication ease, work flow effectiveness and generate authentic leadership.

So why does emotional intelligence create a higher business impact?

Because customers and employees crave connection and meaning, these are increased by vulnerability and sharing our humanness. Across almost all business metrics people buy and buy-in from connection.


1. Shift 'Judgment' to 'Observation'

So, what’s the difference? Judgment focuses on how things that “should” or “should not” be.

Judgmental words cause physiological changes in the body preventing clarity, understanding, and connection. Getting stuck in a black-and-white thinking, physically creates the flight, fight, or freeze reaction in the body.

Being the observer of a situation allows us to communicate and act clear-headedly about the fact of the matter.

By noticing what “is” provides clarity and decisiveness to act. Word choice matters.  Authentic leaders have courage to bring bad news early and express things honesty.


2. Increase your Emotional Vocabulary

“Human beings are born with the emotional capacity of a symphony orchestra yet most people walk through life blowing through a tin whistle.” Rollo May.

While working with the company’s top employee, Jessica’s manager reprimands her in front of others. If she uses a rational thought of, “I’ll just push through and ignore my anger,” and as she continues working, tension builds and emotions accumulate over time. 

So when her boss points out a future mistake. She blows up, “nothing is ever good enough for you!”  By ignoring her anger, it got worse.  

When we're feeling something, especially minor, and don’t express your feelings and needs, it builds the emotional load like a volcano.  

Authentic leadership develops a broad emotional vocabulary that safely engages communication early. Naming feelings and needs effectively reduces the emotions inside others as well as ourselves.  

With low emotional expression, both Jessica and her manager can trigger each other affecting the work environment.

Cultivate the thought that emotions are only indicators; like a car’s oil light. Thinking the oil light is problematic for businesses, causes issues to go unaddressed and get worse.

Emotional management is a multi-billion dollar loss in productivity, HR issues, and talent turnover. Authentic leadership observes rising emotions and learns to become curious and inquires what need the emotion is indicating.


3. Identifying and connecting Needs to Emotions

“At the core of all anger [emotion] is a need that is not being fulfilled,” Marshall Rosenberg Ph.D.

Emotions connected to a need causes it to immediately reduce the physiological response, thus subsiding the emotion. The body relaxes. The language association restores clarity and perspective and will prevent the emotion from replaying in the future.  

The authentic leader focuses on fulfilling the need of the employee or customer. 

George is attending a banquet celebrating the completion of their 6-month building project. As the assistant director it wouldn’t have been successful without him.

The MC only announces gratitude to program director, Suzanne. George feels disheartened, “without me this project wouldn’t have been successful.” George’s need for acknowledgment and recognition were not met, triggering his pain.

George’s options:

1) Suppress his feelings, becoming a “nice dead person”

2) Carry resentment becoming “monster person”

3) Rationalize the emotion, “talking to the oil light” attempting to soothe himself or

4) Self Empathy.

George needed acknowledgment and recognition by being mentioned with Suzanne.

An authentic leader develops the ability to express clearly what their needs are, thus de-escalate the body’s emotions.


4. Making Clear Requests

George’s clear, present request would be to ask; Suzanne or a colleagues, “Would you be willing to acknowledge the hard work I put into the project?

But how does George get his needs met after the fact?  

Authentic leadership checks in using empathy before problem solving.

Suzanne “George, in this moment, what can I say or do to acknowledge you and your efforts moving forward?”  

This type of questioning provides George the opportunity to get clarity on the next best thing and open an engaging conversation.  


The bottom line is, being a leader is to provide the vision to lead your team forward. And an authentic leader puts the heart in the process of communication. Knowing how to self-manage our emotions and connect needs reduces conflict, allowing us to work from our strengths, managing shortcomings, and being  a more effective authentic leader as well.


Sources:  Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication: A Language for Life.


Business Growth Conference Free Guide

How to Develop Strategic Plans in an Ever Changing Environment

September 02, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Ed Bogle

From Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock in the 1970’s to Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan, we have been told time again that change is the only constant in today’s global business climate.

So, the big question is how does a business deal with this from a strategic planning perspective?  

Historically, planning has been based on the probability of certain conditions continuing into the future. 

Today's unpredictability often comes with great speed and is most of the time discontinuous from the past. Company executives are expected to read the trends and define the future of the company, and how it will reshape its competencies to continue to grow. The key is to find the early warning signs and opportunities gained from change. 

As the leader of your company the first thing to do is embrace change.

Encourage collaborative dialogues with your team about changes for strategic advantages and profitability for your organization, your customers and potential customers. 

The second part is to carefully define your brand strategy. 

In an ever changing world defining your brand, culture, promise, value, position, and language becomes critical. You have to cut through a great deal of clutter to build a great brand, and the absolute ingredient is to define your market target segments as tight as possible by “immersing” yourself in the lifestyles, use of products and services your target markets desires.

Your leadership team needs to shift from a love of its product, to a love for the customer.  And understanding your customers fully will help you fulfill their needs in unique and creative ways. Apple has done this very well. 

The third part is to define the long term vision of the company.

At the core of all business success is a clear and concise vision of where the company is headed. From there, define the value to the market (target customer segments) and evolve the company value to those segments over time. 

Focusing on value creation and simplifying while driving out cost and complexity will result in the creation of sustainable profits and defensible market positions.

These defensible positions are built over time and are known as Strategic Excellence Positions or SEPs. They're the distinctive capabilities that clearly sets you apart from others in your industry. SEPs are backed by a set of core competencies, capabilities and processes that create special value to key target customers and alliance partners.

The web world is where brands are authenticated and validated. Cutting through the clutter of the web can seem daunting. But the silver lining is that it creates an opportunity for a company to find customers, and gain insight as to how those customers are valuing brands.

The key to success in the web world is target segments. The tighter the segmenting the easier it is to build a great value proposition and find target customers with content.  

One more thing to note: 

Managing change means being nimble and able to shift directions effectively. 

One of the ways to build a lean and nimble organization is to outsource, build alliances and find partnerships that give the company greater value to the target markets, and collaborate on being creative in bundling and co-branding. 

At the forefront of the future of business growth acceleration is cooperation and collaboration. Finding alliance partners, mentors, master minds and those that will challenge and open your thinking to new models and being opportunistic in change is a process you must build to survive and thrive.  

A great way to find the resources and alliances is to scout out enviroments that you feel in alignment with such as an entrepreneurial growth conference. At CEO Space you have access to top level resources that serve to give you acceleration and significant risk mitigation as you move your company forward.

Three Steps to Vet Business Opportunities

August 25, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Tonya Recla

The biggest mistake we see budding entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners alike make is they fall victim to the latest and greatest get-­‐rich-­‐quick schemes.

The lure of a large ROI with minimal effort seems to entice even the most savvy of people. And why not? There’s a reason why the Strip at Las Vegas and the lottery still exist. Something deep inside us seeks the freedom and excitement of flash-­‐bang success. And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you stumble upon business opportunities at the right time in the right place and POOF you become the next success story.

But most of the time we hear the sad stories of money ventured and nothing gained. The weird thing is that the culture of success-­‐seekers appears to have accepted this yo-­‐yo risk ride. But there is an easier way.

What if you could establish a gauge to determine the likelihood of success BEFORE venturing in?

What if you could hone your BS detector and identify scams and frauds quickly before taking the bait?

What if (gulp) you could actually vet business opportunities?

Okay, okay, I’m being a bit tongue-­‐in-­‐cheek, but we really do get calls from otherwise intelligent individuals asking our opinion about “a great business opportunity.” The frustrating part is they rarely want us to vet the opportunity, they just want us to tell them it is, indeed, great.

It’s a very peculiar phenomenon that, of course, led us to develop a theory about it. And here it is…once people get emotionally invested in an idea it’s very difficult to talk them out of it, regardless of how bad the information is that we uncover.

We actually have clients who pay us to vet people and then argue with us when we try to tell them the results. Those clients already convinced themselves they want to go through with the deal. They only go through the motions of due diligence as a check-­‐the-­‐box necessity. This is NOT how we recommend vetting business opportunities.

The alternative, and more successful, method is employed by our clients who resist becoming attached to a plan or idea until they complete the vetting process. These clients are committed to making informed and confident decisions. They know the only way to do this is to make sure they have all the information necessary. And they don’t become attached to the opportunity before completing the vetting process. These clients willingly walk away from deals if the information suggests things aren’t what they seem. These clients experience success over and over.

So what is this magical vetting process?

We’ve coined it the Due Diligence Process and it’s rooted in basic common sense. In fact it’s very similar to most decision-­‐making processes. But as I mentioned earlier, when it comes to business opportunities and get-­‐rich-­‐quick ideas, we’ve seen highly intelligent people throw process to the wind and lose obscene amounts of money.

It’s unfortunate when if they’d employed a few simple techniques they could invest their time and money in legitimate deals.

1) The first step of the process is figuring out what information you know and what information you need to know. Knowing information is very different from assuming information. The way charlatans continue to deceive is they lead people to think they know information. The best scammers never actually have to lie. It’s amazing what people believe with simple suggestions.

2) Once you’ve ascertained what you know and what you need to know, the next step is figuring out how to get the rest of the information.

The biggest mistake people make in this step is asking the wrong questions. Consider the difference between asking, “Is this really a good opportunity?” versus “What makes this a good opportunity?” Or even better, “Do you have experience with these types of opportunities?” versus “What experience do you have with these types of opportunities?” A simple tweak of questioning techniques aided with the use of basic interrogatives helps you gather information for the third step.

3) Once you have the information necessary to make a decision, the final step is making sure that information is valid.

This step really illustrates the importance of asking specific questions. In the examples above, the responses from questions asked using basic interrogatives are easier to verify than those gained from simple yes/no questions. This step of the vetting process is incredibly crucial and most often skipped. Unfortunately, skilled con artists know this and they bank on being able to sell people opportunities using quick wits and silver tongues. And it works, over and over and over again.

There’s nothing particularly earth-­‐shattering about this process. It’s simple, easy-­‐to-­‐use, and effective. The biggest obstacle we see is people truly not wanting to know that the latest and greatest business opportunity might be just another pipe dream. The irony is once our clients implement this process as a cornerstone of their business practices, they cease to attract frauds and scams and start to attract legitimate deals that lead to success.

Do yourself a favor and get in the habit of vetting business opportunities (including vendors and team members) before you get involved…especially emotionally.

Business Coach 101: How to Choose the Best Fit for You

August 18, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Aaron Young

I've meet a lot of business coaches in my travels and I'm always amazed by the diversity.

There are specialized coaching for every little thing. Facebook Coach, Twitter Expert, LinkedIn Guru, Pinterest Maven. There are sales coaches, marketing coaches, financial experts, debt experts, and wealth experts... And that is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are 575,600 new jobs created each year in the consulting industry. And trying to identify your perfect accountability partner can be a bit frustrating. After all, “Everyone needs a coach” and “Choosing the right coach will make the difference between success and failure”. 

Personally, I resisted the title of 'coach' and 'consultant' for a long time. I had hired a number of them for my companies over the years and I just didn’t want to be one of these people who swoop in and make a bunch of pretty recommendation, tell you where you and your team are failing and then sell you several copies of collected writings to study until the next quarter when they come back and do it all again.

But then (later in life) I realized it was time to start sharing some of the things I had learned from 32 years of running companies. I wanted to share my stories and admit my mistakes and maybe help new business owners have an easier time as they tred the entrepreneurial highway. I gave myself the title Strategic Thinking Partner and quickly earned the privilege of working with some very cool people.

Here is my take on choosing a consultant:

Most coaches have good intentions. Many have specialized knowledge and can go deep into their subject. Some seem cooler and can give a great talk and have excellent handouts. And there are a few who really have never done anything at all in business and provide nothing to their victims…I mean clients. 

My recommendation for the perfect coach goes something like this;

  1. Look for someone you like. Somebody you want to open up to.
  2. Look for someone who has demonstrable knowledge and has a track record on the subjects you specifically want help with now.
  3. Look for someone that can take you from where you are today and build things up from there. 
  4. Be confident that the person you're engaging has your best interest at heart because they'll give you a little piece of themselves as they work with you to build your dream.
  5. Remember what Wallace Wattles taught. The consumer should receive more in use value than what they have paid in cash value. In other words, your consultant/guru/expert/coach should be slightly over delivering on what you've agreed to.
  6. Get everything in writing. You have the right know exactly what you are buying. If a coach won’t provide that specific information, walk away.
  7. Always perform due diligence. You want to make sure they are who they say they are, and they can do what they say they can do. (trusted professional services are best) 

Once you have found the perfect coach commit to listening to them, weighing their counsel and learn to grow out of your comfort zone. 

A coach should be able to do two things: 

  1. To make you better than you are now.
  2. To test you and to track your progress.

Just as in sports the coach is not the athlete. They cannot run laps for you or shoot free throws or lift the weights. They teach and you perform. No matter how great a coach you find, nothing releases you from the responsibility of running your own business.  

When you've taken the time and found the right person the payoff is huge. Your burdens will feel a little lighter, your course a little clearer, and your successes a whole lot bigger because you took the time to find the right coach.




Four Elements of a Great “Turn-Key” Business Opportunity

July 16, 2015 / Leave a comment / by Ken Courtright



To say the phrase “I’m looking for something turn-key” is common, would be an understatement. Over 350,000 people type some form of the phrase “turn-key business opportunity” into Google’s search bar each month. This means that close to 1% of our U.S. population is looking for a revenue model that is “turn-key”.

The premise of a “turn-key” business model is that the business they buy into will come with a step-by-step formula for success. A person looking for something turn-key is usually in the hunt for something they can simply add in a little money or elbow grease.

Many people today acknowledge the need to bring in extra income but know they have no time or money to make mistakes on their first business venture. The fear of loss, being what it is, forces many to search out businesses that are truly turn-key. They're hoping these turn-key businesses will allow them to move into another revenue stream without a steep learning curve. And this concept has allowed franchising, the number one business model in America, to flourish.

Ray Kroc of McDonald’s showed the world that a turn-key operation is a “working model”. It's a model that is tried and true. It's a model that can be followed to create a fairly accurate predetermined financial return. Most importantly, it can be done by someone with no industry experience.


There are 4 main elements of a turn-key business:

1. The model can stand up to any forms of due diligence; there's a working, successful model in place.

2. A predetermined return can be forecasted.

3. No industry experience is required. Anybody can do it if they meet the financial qualifications.

4. There is some form of “out” clause or exit strategy in place.


The Pros and Cons:

The Pros: The Pros of a turn-key operation are clearly the four main components: The model has been fine-tuned and is up and running. It is so fine-tuned that based on either physical location or current website traffic - a predetermined financial return can be extrapolated. No experience is necessary. There is some form of “out” clause where the business owner can get all or most of their money back, like a franchises ability to allow a franchise owner to sell their franchise, often for a substantial profit.

The Cons:  The only Con I can see is that most good turn-key models are offline (not on the internet). It is also a general rule with a franchise that the less money you have to put in, the higher the risk of failure. The more money you put in, the bigger the budget earmarked for the support system, training module and marketing. Franchises are not perfect.  They are still susceptible to some of the landmines of business ownership. Even McDonalds, the most expensive franchise, once in a while, has to close a store. 


Best advice I can give:

If you are in a situation where you need an extra revenue stream coming into your household or business, then I’d look hard at a good traditional franchise. Good franchises can be had for as low as $10,000 or high as $1,000,000.  These franchises come with true gross and net profit models that provide immediate and sustainable cash flow.  Because they are a franchise, they come with an abundance of training and support.

If you don’t have the capital to step into a traditional franchise, there may be another viable optional.  If you’ve ever had a great idea for a product launch, a new service offering or a stand-alone business, but didn’t know how to get started, you may want to reach out to a business consultant or attend a business growth conference like CEO Space. Sometimes the only thing a good idea is lacking is a proper sequence. 

Unfortunately, too many people graduate from this life with great ideas inside them because they simply didn’t know where to start. Sometimes an initial consultation with a business consultant can lay out a quick step by step formula to launch a product or get your potential business off the ground.