Monday, May 6, 2013

Creativity in Business

Why think like a beginner?
Thinking like a beginner makes us creative.
It restores the wonders of discovery.
Business creativity leads to innovation.

Innovation leads to success.
Over the coming weeks we’ll discuss creativity.

Thinking like a beginner offers advantages.
Jack Nicklaus started each season as a beginner.
His golf coach went through an annual ritual.
He checked Jack’s stance and grip.
He checked Jack’s approach to the ball.
He checked his swing and his follow-through.
Want to copy Nicklaus’s success in golf?
Go back to the basics and practice, practice, practice.
The fundamentals help us think creatively.
That leads to innovation and success.

Ray Kroc was big on innovation.
He famously told McDonald’s franchisees:
“We can innovate faster than they can copy us.”
McDonald’s dominated the fast food market.
Kroc also taught his people about growth.
“When you’re green, you’re growing.
“When you’re ripe, you’re rotting.”
Many owners are rotting their way out of business.

Thinking like a beginner has other advantages.
One karate master was buried in a white belt.
The white belt is the belt of the beginner.
Martial artists strive for the coveted black belt.
The master had decades of experience.
He taught his skills to others.
His white belt to him was symbolic of death.
Death, he believed, makes beginners of us all.

Here’s a short exercise to help you in business.
Think about your top three challenges.
They may involved your competition.
Or your sales and client relationships.
Or other bottom line concerns.

Make a list of these challenges.
Detail the steps needed to correct them.
Place a deadline beside each step.
Determine who will help with each step.
Don’t procrastinate. Take action.

Next: How to recall great ideas.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Leadership in tough times, Part 5

Do you suffer from Porsche Syndrome?
My friend Ruth King sees this a lot.
She advises business owners on profitability.

Too many think they can spend and spend.
They really should run for Congress.
That’s where you spend other people’s money.
Just because you have cash, don’t waste it.

She knows several of these business owners.
One lost out on a loan due to Porsche Syndrome.
He bragged about his $2,200 monthly Porsche lease.
His business was footing an extravagant lifestyle.
His investor was not going to loan money for that.
He invested in businesses to help them grow.
And he expected to be paid back with interest.
He wasn’t going to invest the “finer things of life.”

Some owners use their businesses to buy boats.
Or to buy expensive homes and cars.
To write off expensive vacations and resort visits.
They put non-working relatives on the payroll.
They don’t invest in their businesses.
They invest in themselves and their lifestyles.
How stupid can you get?

Ruth King says enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Just don’t do it at the expense of your business.
Save your cash for downturns. They will come.
Save for rainy days. You’ll have your share of them.

How do you avoid the Porsche Syndrome?
Make sure you generate reasonable profit margins.
You can actually save relatively painlessly.
For example, save 1% of every check that comes in.
If your deposits total $10,000, put $100 into savings.
You’ll never miss the $100.
And, that $100 will start earning interest.

Here are three questions for you.
1. How many business expenses can you avoid?
2. How much of the savings can you escrow?
3. Where can you get the best interest rates?

Next: Creativity in business.

Jerry Bellune's family owns and operates book and newspaper publishing companies in Lexington. He leads Master Mind groups for business owners. For details, contact him at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How to avoid headaches

No this isn’t a medical message. It’s more than that.
Gen. Curtis LeMay knew about headaches.
His Strategic Air Command was powerful.
A SAC scramble was an awesome sight to see.
It would send a tingle up your spine.

LeMay was a tough taskmaster.
His pilots were ready to scramble 24 hours a day.
His leadership style was summed up in seven words.
“I don’t get headaches. I give them.”
LeMay was a member of the Warrior Class.
Business owners need to be warriors, too.

A publisher friend called the other day.
He had read something I had written in the trade press.We give our overseas troops a web site password.
This lets them keep up with news back home.
Subscribers pay for their passwords but not our heroes.
It’s a small contribution to helping them keep in touch.

My friend feared some of them might abuse it.
They might give the password to their friends.
Don’t worry about it, I said. If they do, so what?
You may lose a few dollars on subscriptions.
But you have no way to stop it.
Plus your advertisers get extra exposure.
Besides, military families already do plenty for us.
This seems like a small thing to do for them.

He needs to be either a warrior or a worrier.
He wants to be a warrior but he deals with worriers.
This is a test of his leadership.
He must set a warrior example.

Do you have to deal with worriers?
Work on them one at a time.
That way they can’t gang up on you in a group.
Show them your courage by tough decisions.
Encourage them to show their courage, too.
Remind yourself that you sign their pay checks.

Here are three quick questions for you.
1. Who are your warriors?
2. Who are your worriers?
3. How can you get the best from both?

Next: Do you suffer from Porsche Syndrome?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Leadership in tough times, Part 3

How to profit when the next bubble bursts

Last week we talked about failing businesses.
Even more will fail in the next economic slump.
That’s the forecast of native South Carolinian Harry Dent, Jr..
He uses demographics to chart business trends.
He’s accurately forecast previous booms and busts.
He advises us to prepare for the next bust cycle.

Our economy moves in boom and bust cycles.
It expands and contracts . . . with greed and fear.
Some cycles are short in nature, others longer.
Washington has run up $17 trillion in debt.
That’s in only five years and at our risk.
What this means does NOT look good.
Could what’s happened to Greece happen here?
Harry Dent believes it can and will. So do I.

He identifies two groups that will profit in a bust:
1. Young entrepreneurs with ideas and capital.
3. Baby Boomers who have lots of money.
The next bust will deflate prices and slow sales.
Debt-ridden businesses will suffer.
Their money troubles will result in bankruptcy.

Have you been smart about operating lean.
About cutting costs and raising profit margins?
About protecting your cash and cash flow?
Are you focused on recession-proof markets?
This is when you can make the most of it.
As rivals go under, you can increase market share.
You can buy them for pennies on the dollar.
Always buy assets, not their liabilities.

We started our company in 1992.
Some thought we were foolish.
The economy was in a recession.
Established newspapers already served our market.
Our rivals predicted we wouldn’t last six months.
We operated a lean, focused business.
We hired the best people available.
All of us were committed to do whatever it took.
Nine years later, we owned the market.
Our closest rival sold out for pennies on the dollar.

Next: How to avoid headaches.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Leadership in tough times, Part 2

How to turn around a failing business

Last week we talked about poor client service.
I want to share this story with you.
It’s about an auto dealer and his sales people.

He bought the business from a retiring owner.
Over the years, the owner’s passion had cooled.
It took three years to position his business for sale.
His accountant helped as best he could.
Those were three hard years of hard decisions.
Nevertheless, he ignored a major problem.

The new owner assessed what he had bought.
Sales had leveled out over the last 10 years.
Net profit showed little year-to-year gain.
Sales were stagnant for two reasons:
1. Lack of marketing and advertising.
2. An unmotivated sales force.

Two sales people, he found, really worked.
They represented 75% of his sales.
They accounted for 85% of his net profit.
The other seven were unproductive.
They wasted time. They complained.
Family problems, they said, distracted them.

He made a tough decision and fired seven.
He recruited two other sales people he knew.
He worked to energize his team of four.
They held weekly sales meetings.
They discussed what worked and what didn’t.
All five of them learned from each other.

He began an aggressive marketing campaign.
He advertised online, in print and cable.
He measured his results from each medium.
He tracked offers which produced the most.
He measured his Return on Investment.
Which offers attracted the most prospects.
Which offers produced the most revenue.
He concentrated on offers than produced revenue.

In a year, his sales increased 6%.
His net profit increased 10%.
The business was making a recovery.

Next: What business forecasters predict.