The ‘Profitability Ninja’ & The ‘Samurai of Innovation’

Last week I posted the first part of a series of guest blogs sharing the article “Creativity vs. ‘Innovativity'” by Frank DeRaffele.  Below is the continuation of where the article left off last week.

“Creativity vs. ‘Innovativity'” by Frank J. DeRaffele Jr. ( . . . Continued — CLICK here to read Part 1)

So how do we save ourselves from this Ninja?  Enter the Samurai of Innovation. This Innovative Samurai (dressed in white, by the way) cuts through the creativity and reveals Innovative Thought, Innovative Ideas, Innovative Profitability.

Innovation is the good twin of creativity.  Innovation is creativity with focused and applied business value.  It knows how to see, analyze, evaluate, measure, and decide if this creative thought is able to become Business Innovation or if it will stay as Creative Waste.

As creativity is both a strength and a weakness to us as small business entrepreneurs, we must learn and develop the skill of how to take our creative thoughts and see if they can become innovative bottom line value.

A creative thought may be a wonderful idea but it has no direct relation to a solution.  Not that it is not of value, because it may have great value, but it may not be of value NOW.  When it is not of direct value, we open the gate for our Profitability Ninja to enter.  The question is, how do we define value? In its most simple form, we can answer this question by asking — Does this creative idea relate directly to a current problem that we have and will it help us solve the problem in the way we would like?

For example, let’s say you own a retail store.  You measure your success by the number of transactions you do on a daily basis and by the dollar volume of each transaction.  Currently you are very happy with the number of transactions but you would like to increase your average dollar per transaction.  Most customers that purchase from you spend an average of $55.00 (USD) per transaction.  You would really like to get that number up to $65.00 (USD) per transaction.  This means we need to look at up-selling, cross-selling, and the packaging of products.  As you start to think about this, you come across an idea of a great new way to do a direct mail piece to a new target market.  You know that if this new direct mail piece works, you will attract a new client base to your store.  This new client base is exciting because you haven’t focused on new target markets for quite a while and by expanding into . . . WAIT A MINUTE! What does this have to do with increasing your average dollar per transaction?!  The answer is . . . NOTHING.

What just happened here?  Yes, it was the Profitability Ninja. He snuck in and started you thinking down a new path.  He got you to come up with a great new idea and while getting excited about that idea, he made you forget that your real problem is Average $/Transaction . . . NOT Number of Transactions.  Do you see what I mean?  This new idea may not be a bad idea–in fact, it may be a good idea . . . however, it is not helping to solve the current problem at hand.  By not keeping your focus on Direct Resolutions to your problem, your profits will go into the red.

Come back next week to read the final installment of Franks article, “Creativity vs. ‘Innovativity,” and learn how to recognize ‘innovativity’ to maximize benefits from creativity and help your business soar. As always, if you have a comment to share, I’d love to read it so please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Creativity vs. ‘Innovativity’

My friend Frank DeRaffele Jr., whom is also one of the co-authors of my upcoming book Business Networking and Sex, shared with me a great article he recently wrote called “Creativity vs. ‘Innovativity'” and I’d like to share it with all of you who read this blog.

Frank makes some very interesting points about the importance of balancing creativity and innovation in regard to small business and I think small business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere will benefit from reading this article.  Since the article is quite lengthy, I’m going to divide it into a few different guest blogs so, if you like what you read in the remainder of this blog entry, be sure to stay tuned for the follow up guest blogs featuring Frank’s article.

“Creativity vs. ‘Innovativity'” by Frank J. DeRaffele Jr.

As Small Business Entrepreneurs (SBEs), one of our greatest strengths is our creativity.  Coming up with new ideas . . . ALL THE TIME.  However, one of our greatest weaknesses is our creativity.  Coming up with new ideas . . . ALL THE TIME.  For most of us, we have too many ideas, too often.  Oh, the paradox!  We tend to like the new idea, the new concept, the new Ah-ha!  The problem with this creativity and these great ideas is that we tend to be great out of the gate but lose power on the follow through.  I am not saying that we should not be creative.  I am not saying that creativity is a bad thing.  I AM saying that creativity can be a time stealer, distraction, justification, and crutch.

Ninja vs. Samurai

Most of us SBEs love the freedom that we have to come up with new ideas and then implement them as quickly or as slowly as we like.  We love the fact that if and when we get bored with this new idea or we feel it is not panning out as we hoped, we can just drop it and move on.  After all, we have no one to answer to.  “I can do what I want, when I want to, and no one can tell me otherwise” we think to ourselves.  This is true.  Very true.  In fact, TOO TRUE.  This freedom we have ends up becoming our Profitability Ninja.  This Ninja disguises himself as strength and confidence, happiness and joy.  Yet, behind his mask is the true assassin.  The Ninja who will kill our profits.  He begins to steal our profits and we don’t notice it.  We may not notice it for weeks, months, or years.  We mostly don’t notice it because either he is too close to us or we just refuse to see him.

This Ninja steals by keeping us focused on new projects that really haven’t been well thought out.  Investing time, energy, man hours, relationships, and money, with little to no return.  This is when the Dark Ninja turns into the Red Ninja.  We are metaphorically bleeding.  We are now going from profitability to loss (Black Ink to Red Ink).

So how do we save ourselves from this Ninja?  Enter the Samurai of Innovation . . .

Come back next week to read more of Frank’s article and learn about the “Samurai of Innovation.” In the meantime, if you have any comments to share about this first article installment, please feel free to share them here.

Don’t Analyze What’s Wrong–Look for What’s Working!

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eW_qfrJ_JI[/tube]

It’s a fact: change is not easy!

So, how do you keep business on the up and up amidst a constant onslaught of challenges that require you and your business to change and adapt?

Watch this short video for some powerful tips from my good friend and author of The Solutions Focus, Dr. Mark McKergow.

You’ll learn, like I have, that one of the most important things a business owner can do to strengthen and grow their business is to operate on a daily basis by focusing on solutions.  Mark always says that if a company focuses primarily on problem, they become an expert at problems–instead, they need to focus on solutions!

After you’ve watched the video, come back and leave a comment to let me know which of Mark’s tips was the most valuable for you.

Eliciting Excellence Entrepreneur Expo 2011–FREE Teleseminar

I am pleased to announce that I will be participating in an educational teleseminar event which is being offered FREE of charge and hosted by Business Strategist and Executive Coach Michael Beck (pictured at right).

This online event, the 2011 Eliciting Excellence Entrepreneur Expo, will feature insights and strategies from 15 entrepreneurial experts (including yours truly) and I encourage all to attend who are interested in this free opportunity to learn about powerful income-boosting strategies, marketing insights, and personal effectiveness secrets to grow business.

The event begins on April 11th and runs for two weeks–Monday through Friday.  Each one-hour presentation will be packed with practical, useful content and will be available for 24 hours on its scheduled day.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the event and to REGISTER FOR FREE now (free bonus package of gifts is provided to those who register).

Do You Stand Out in a Crowd?

The following is a guest blog entry written by a friend and colleague of mine, Elaine Betts of Go Far Consulting.

I came across this piece by Elaine through the research I’ve been doing for my upcoming gender book and I wanted to share it with my blog readers because I think her insight into the topic of women in business is excellent and the tips, though written specifically for women in business, can be valuable to men as well.

If you are a woman in business and have advice for other women in business, if you would like to share a particular challenge to invite encouragement from others who may have valuable solutions, or if you would simply like to leave a comment, please drop us a note in the comment section.

“Do You Stand Out in a Crowd?” By Elaine Betts

Julie paused, stood outside the door, took a deep breath, straightened her jacket, and walked into the room where many of her co-workers were.  She looked around to see that, as usual, she was the only female present.  I wish I had a few allies, she thought to herself.

In situations like Julie’s, where the majority of a woman’s co-workers are male, some women tend to feel a certain vulnerability as the gender minority in their working environment.  When women constitute less than 25% of the total number of employees in a given industry, that industry is known as a ‘non traditional occupation’.  There can be many advantages as well as disadvantages for women working in non traditional occupations,  or in environments which, for some reason or another, have a gender imbalance.  However, the main factor in how a woman determines advantages from disadvantages in these situations is her individual outlook or perspective.

For example, sometimes it can seem intimidating or stressful to be the only female present.  On the other hand, the advantage for the woman in this situation is that she is easily remembered because she stands out from the crowd. This means that if one of her goals is to make a difference and bring about positive change, she already has an advantage because she is in a position to be noticed.  Women who confidently embrace the opportunity to stand out from the crowd often wear bright, bold colors and use the fact that people notice them to achieve great things.

Women in the world of business who take the attitude that being in the gender minority can be an advantage have definitely had a positive influence on not only the business world but the economy as well. According to the U.S. National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses are responsible for employing 16% of all U.S. jobs with an economic impact of $3 trillion annually.  How’s that for standing out in the crowd and making a difference?

If you are a woman in the working world, ask yourself if you are taking advantage of your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. If the answer is no, I encourage you to take a cue from the women in business who welcome the chance to confidently stand out and be noticed.  Following their lead can bring great rewards in both business and life.

Now, don’t get me wrong . . . I am not saying that being a woman in business is without its challenges. Speaking from my own experiences, as well as from my experience as a consultant to several women in business, I can tell you that women employed by larger business companies often feel encumbered by a seeming lack of opportunity and flexibility.  They can feel more pressure to perform and end up working much harder to prove themselves in their work environment.  However, this type of pressure has often served as the motivation for women to start their own business or make the change to a work environment where results and performance are highly valued and consistently rewarded by more opportunity.

Additional challenges for working women are evidenced by the fact that most of them have several roles to play. On top of the role a woman executes in her job, she often plays one or more roles such as romantic partner, mother, homemaker, student, caretaker, etc.  Each role has unique and very real demands and combining them all together can create significant stress.  This stress brings even more opportunities to stand out and make a difference though, as long as a woman makes a continuous effort to find ways to excel in all her roles.

Here are 10 tips to help women maintain stand-out success in every role:

    • Know your priorities, who and what comes first in your life.
    • Remain focused on what you want to achieve.
    • In each role you play, focus on being present solely in that role while you are executing it.
    • Plan the week ahead by scheduling car pools, kids’ after-school activities, day care, babysitter, etc. in advance.
    • If your job requires continuing education (always a good idea), see if you can get education classes in an audio version or via a podcast–something that can be downloaded and played in the car or on an iPod to and from work.  If this isn’t an option, allocate regular time frames (perhaps 30 minutes, 3 times a week) and plan to learn when you are able to achieve your most focused frame of mind.
    • Invest time in personal development and know who you are.
    • Know your trade and keep up with industry standards.
    • Plan time for yourself, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes for a walk or to sit in a quiet spot reading a book while you drink your morning coffee. This is very important because if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be in good shape to help others effectively in your various roles.
    • When it becomes difficult to know what to do next, enlist a mentor, coach, or colleague.  These people can  hold you accountable, cheer you on, and give you the kind of  ‘tough love’ that will keep you on track.  In short, they can be life savers.

The common thread among women in business who stand out from the crowd is that they are confident about themselves and courageous about what they do, regardless of their environment or its gender ratio. Successful business women stand out from their sea of colleagues by facing challenges head on.

These days we live in a big melting pot where, over the years, transport and the internet have made the world a much smaller place.  As such, the dynamics of how we do business are ever-changing and allow for much greater ease of communication than we’ve ever had before.  This is a perfect time for business women and female entrepreneurs to utilize the advantages available to them in order to stand out,  be heard, and make great things happen.

So what are you waiting for?  Now is the time to become the  stand-out business woman you can most definitely be.


Calling All Business People!–Help Define the Current State of the Global Business Economy

Last month I announced that my company recently created a “business index” to consistently gauge the ever-changing economic state of business based on quarterly global survey results of retailers, service companies, and manufacturing companies all around the world.

The statistics gathered from the survey results are intended to keep small business owners, entrepreneurs, and companies, as well as the media and the general public, educated and informed as to the changing state of the global business economy and the current business trends that become apparent over time.

The first BNIBusinessIndex.com report was published last month and, based on survey results gathered from the participation of over 5,000 businesses across the globe, the report reveals important, accurate evidence that the global economy is improving (click here for full details on that report).

The next worldwide report will be published in April and it will be based on results from a new survey which is currently being conducted on BNIBusinessIndex.comI encourage all readers of this blog to take a few quick moments to answer the four simple questions in the current survey. Your participation will play a very important part in obtaining an accurate assessment of the state of business around the world–as I often say, you may not make a world of difference but you can make a difference in the world.  So, please, take this opportunity to stand up and make your voice count.  Your input will truly help to define the current state of the global economy, information which serves as a valuable resource to businesspeople in every part of the world.

Please click here to take the current survey now.

I extend my sincerest gratitude to all of you who take the time to participate in this important project.  On behalf of businesspeople and entrepreneurs everywhere, myself included, we are extremely grateful to you for your invaluable input.

The "Friendly Skies" Are Back

Long lines, deteriorating service, flight attendants grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit handle to slide out onto the tarmac are part of our vision of airlines these days.

However, I had an experience last week that was truly amazing in this day and age.

My wife and I were flying on United from LAX to New Orleans for a business conference.  Before we were about to land, Rebecca, the flight attendant, handed me a business card from the Captain.  His name is Patrick Fletcher.  On the back of Captain Fletcher’s card was a handwritten note that said:

Flight 139, January 19, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Misner,

It’s great to have you both with us today – Welcome!  I hope you have a great visit to New Orleans – we really appreciate your business!

Sincerely,

Pat Fletcher

Rebecca (who was a great flight attendant, by the way), told me the Captain wrote these notes to everyone who was a member of their premier level frequent flier club as well as all the 1st class passengers.  On this day, that was around 12 people.   She said he is great to fly with because he really treats the passengers AND the crew very well, mentioning that he had brought scones to all of them that morning.

I fly A LOT.  In the last 20 years, I’ve probably traveled on over 800 flights all around the world.  In that time, I’ve never received a personal note from the Captain.

Entrepreneurs and major corporations alike can learn from this story.  Personal service that goes above and beyond the call of duty, can generate great word of mouth.

Captain Fletcher – my hat’s off to you.  Well done.  I think this is a great example of how one person in a really large company can make a difference in a customer’s attitude.  Your note was creative and appreciated.  I hope to be flying with you again.

In the comments section below, please share with me a great customer service experience you have had and how it has impacted your conversation about that company with others.

Making Connections to Start Your Own Business

I recently got asked a really great question on Ask Entrepreneur: Where do I get connected with people who can help me open a business?

Though there is evidence that business is currently on the rise and the economy is moving in a positive direction, the recent downturn in the economy prompted many people who found themselves unemployed to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and consider starting their own business.

This begs the question above–are there efficient ways to get in touch with people who can help you start your own business?

The answer is yes, and here are my three recommendations:

1) Go through your contacts and talk to people you personally know who have started a business. Set an appointment.  Let them know what you are doing and ask if they’d give you an hour of mentoring.  If possible, meet with them in person.  Show up with specific questions written out in advance.  Send them the questions prior to the meeting so they have a good understanding of what kind of information you’re looking for.  When you meet, focus on those questions, write down the answers, and stick to the time frame you promised.  If the conversation goes well, ask if you can meet with them in the future.  Follow this process with two or three people who have opened a business successfully.  I guarantee you will find this to be very valuable.

2) Find a business coach who has experience with start-up businesses. Hire them to coach you through the process.

3) Read, read, read!  There are a lot of books out there on opening a business. I have personally reviewed many of the books published by Entrepreneur Press on starting a business and they are excellent.  Go to EntrepreneurPress.com to see some of them.

I strongly encourage anyone genuinely interested in starting their own business to pursue the endeavor. I have owned my own business for almost thirty years (that’s a picture of me at top right, when I first started my company, BNI, and was running it from my house and garage with only one other employee in the mid ’80s) and it continues to be an amazing and fulfilling journey. I don’t think I would ever go back to working for someone else.

50 Best Blogs for Young Entrepreneurs

I am excited to announce that this blog was listed as #26 in the list of “50 Best Blogs for Young Entrepreneurs”!

Here’s what they said:

“Networking Entrepreneur: Even if you think you’re a pro at networking, check this blog for new tips and strategies as your business grows. Recommended Posts: Make No Assumptions and Clueless When It Comes To Conversing? Four Tips

The list, published by OEDb (Online Education Database), was created as a resource for young entrepreneurs who are looking to learn some basic business principles and discover how to communicate and collaborate in the real world before finding success.  Divided into categories (“Tools & Resources,” “Inspiration & Testimonials,” “Tips & Education,” “Industry News,” and Insights “From Young Entrepreneurs”), the list presents the top blogs that will help you communicate, collaborate, master the science of SEO and social media marketing, shake hands like a professional, and more.

Young entrepreneur or not, this list contains a cornucopia of excellent links that will provide you with an endless amount of useful information.

I’m honored to be included in this list of the “50 Best Blogs for Young Entrepreneurs” and I encourage all of my blog readers to check out the list and explore the great (and FREE)  information that’s out there to help contribute to your success!

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Winning Strategies for Business Conference

Entrepreneur magazine’s Winning Strategies for Business Conference is being held in Long Beach, Calif., on Oct. 5. If it’s possible for you to attend, I highly recommend that you go. This event offers serious educational value, plenty of opportunities to network and, best of all, registration is FREE!

I’ll be giving the keynote presentation, “Networking Like a Pro,” during the morning session and I’ll be talking about how to create, maintain and serve a wide network and enjoy great business and personal rewards as a result.

If you can make it out to the conference, I’d love to have the opportunity to meet you, so please take a moment to introduce yourself during one of the networking sessions or after my presentation.

The focus of the Winning Strategies for Business Conference is to show you everything you need to know about how to go further and achieve more by teaching you proven tactics that will impact virtually every aspect of your business. Bruce Kimbrell of Disney Institute will be giving the afternoon keynote presentation, “Disney’s Approach to People Management,” and there will be a handful of other dynamic speakers presenting on topics such as SEO, social networking and PR, fundraising, launching a new business, brand building, driving sales and more.

There will also be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for you to pitch your business to Entrepreneur‘s editors for a chance to have your business featured in either Entrepreneur magazine or on Entrepreneur.com

(Now that is a great opportunity!)

Hope to see you at the event! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR FREE or to get more information on Winning Strategies for Business.

Safari Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs can be very creative in their enterprises. Camp Jabulani in the Kapama Game Reserve just outside Kruger National Park in South Africa is a great example of this. I had an opportunity to spend five days there last week and was truly amazed.

Jabulani has six luxury suites with massive wooden sliding doors and floor-to-ceiling screened-in windows that make up the walls of the suite (photo to the left). These walls are covered at night by canvas. During the day, you have the feeling you are in a luxury tent. At night you have total privacy but can hear the roar of lions and the calls of other wild animals just outside the safety of the enclosed compound.

Guests get their very own personal ranger in open safari vehicles as they head out in search of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, rhino, water buffalo and leopard) as well as many, many other species of wildlife. The photos below of a lion and an elephant were taken by me while in the vehicle.

Each guest’s itinerary is tailored to suit him or her. Never is a schedule dictated. The favorite phrases from the camp staff are: “Whatever you want” and “Whenever you want.”

Camp Jabulani offers the only night safari on elephant back in the world (photo to right)!  In addition, guests are treated to a visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre founded by the owner of Camp Jabulani, Lente Roode. The centre is one of the leading private research and breeding facilities for endangered species in South Africa.  It has served in rescuing many threatened elephants in South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as caring for African vultures, cheetahs, antelope, wild dogs and many other animals.  It also has an extensive and well-known breeding program for cheetahs.

To the left is a photo of my wife and me meeting one of the more subdued cheetahs at the centre.

What Roode has done in this enterprise is truly remarkable. She has taken a business–the Jabulani Camp, within a private reserve that she and her son own, Kapama Reserve–and established a nonprofit center for the treatment and care of injured and endangered animals. She has turned her passion into a thriving business as well as a remarkable charitable cause to save the animals of South Africa. Ventures like this are truly a great example of entrepreneurism. She and her staff have found a way to build an entrepreneurial enterprise while giving back to the country by helping to maintain a healthy bio-diversity and the cultural heritage of a nation.

For more information on Camp Jabulani, go to www.campjabulani.com/

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