Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do Good, Serve Well, Become Successful All in an Underserved Market

Cater to a niche market for rewards on many levels. Dr. Kandor, founder and president of Enabling Devices, has used his background as a biomedical engineer to help him design toys for children with a range of special needs, according to “Toys for Disabled, Step 1: What Can a Child Still Do”, reported by Charkes in The New York Times,. As the number of children with special needs grows, the need for appropriate toys increases. Other toy companies, such as the New York-based Toy Industry Association are also beginning to acknowledge this trend. However, Dr. Kandor’s company is the only one in the field who solely creates toys for children with special needs. The company sells approximately 100,000 toys and devices per year to schools, institutions and families, while predicting revenues of $6 million for the 2006 fiscal year.

Finding an untapped market can build a stronger business.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Membership Has Its Benefits

How can you show auxiliary benefits of being a customer? According to “For Card-Carrying Members, Lounging at the Mall” in The New York Times, The American Express Members Lounge, at the Mall in Short Hills, provided respite to holiday shoppers between November 7, 2006 and January 14, 2007. Ralph Andretta, senior vice president and general manager of membership rewards for American Express explained that “this [was] a test, our way of demonstrating why it’s important to keep that card in your wallet.” This was American Express’s first attempt at "customer-coddling,” outside a trade show venue. This way-station gives American Express members a second wind for shopping.

Build a stronger business by meeting the secondary needs of your clients.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Go Slightly Off the Beaten Path to Find Opportunities

You can find terrific sources of movie reviews sites other than the greatgrandfather site, Internet Movie Database, aka IMDB. Here are three other movie review websites:
These sites are gathering momentum because they offer features that differ from the market leader, and you can take away a lesson in this strategy. When you are building a stronger business, understand what the competition is doing and find a way to differentiate based on an underserved market or overlooked feature that you can exploit to your advantage.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reinvigorate Your Business to Grow It

According to Patricia Ryan Madson, author of "Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up," an effective way to improve your business to take a fresh look at what and how you are doing in your business. Learn to work with situations that used to be interpreted as mistakes in a new light. Improv consultants can help alter a work environment by creating novel situations and encouraging individuals to react in new ways. This addition of humor and decrease of the fear of making mistakes can help reduce tension in the workplace. Ms. Madson and other improv consultants, including a team out of Portland, Ore., called On Your Feet (, are hoping to create "a culture of yes." Developing a culture of yes can allow entrepreneurs to consider ideas that they previously may have discarded. Often "happy mistakes" can occur when one idea opens the door to another pathway of thinking. Robert Poynton, a co-founder of On Your Feet said "if anything, we know rather less about what is coming next, and how it will affect us, than our ancestors did," in "A Turtle and a Guitar Case: Improvisation and the Joys of Uncertainty." The On Your Feet site also refers to a "cool mistake," something seemingly negative that has a positive outcome when interpreted in a different light. As all business owners know, even the best made plans can fail. According to Ms. Madson, "improvisers avoid spinning their wheels because they see quickly what isn't working, or simultaneously, what might be successful that didn't occur to them at first. Improvisers, by definition, take risks and make mistakes, lots of them, but that's what leads them in fresh directions." Ms. Madson acknowledges that this change away from structured planning can be difficult; however, she suggests that this method can still help your business move forward. Mike Kwatinetz, a venture capitalist who is co-founder and general partner at Azure Capital Partners in Palo Alto, embraces improvisational thinking as a way to get companies moving. This way you are reacting to what is happening around you and making appropriate changes and improvements.

Build a stronger business by letting go of the future.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Understand First In Order to Motivate Yourself and Others

According to Parker-Pope, in "In You Find the Motivation, Exercise Follows", in The New York Times, a Consumer Reports survey found that 40% of individuals who own home exercise equipment use then less than they expected. This is a massive population, considering consumers spend an estimated $4 billion on home exercise equipment, yearly. The purchase of home exercise equipment appears to influence whether people start an exercise regime, but research suggests that those with home exercise equipment are less likely to stick with an exercise program, over time. These studies are showing that ownership of personal is not the most important factor in sticking with an exercise plan; rather, self-efficacy is more influential. Self-efficacy is one's true belief that they have the ability to achieve their goals. The journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine reported that individuals who scored high on measures of self-efficacy were "nearly three times as likely to be exercising after a year as those with lower self-efficacy scores, whether or not they owned an exercise machine." Your ability to meet your own expectations was also shown in influence whether you stuck to your exercise plan.

Research has shown that individuals often fail to take these factors into account when they embark on a new exercise plan. David M. Williams, assistant professor at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, suggests the following to help increase your chance of sticking with an exercise plan:
  • work out with friends or family members
  • master an exercise
  • work with someone who motivates you (ex. a personal trainer)
These changes to your exercise plan can increase your confidence and improve your chance of continuing it. Along this line, Ravi Dhar, director of the Yale Center for Customer Insights and a professor of marketing and psychology, suggests that "'most goals we set for ourselves tend to be unrealistically high.'" Therefore, when one purchases a home exercise machine, they tend to focus only on the positive without taking the barriers into account, such as giving up spending time with friends or on the Internet. In a study of undergraduates, those who were guided in making decisions based in the reality of life were willing to spend less money for home exercise equipment, as they understood the disparity in their expectations and what they would more likely accomplish. It is important to understand the difference of an ideal setting and the actual life that you live. Kurt A. Carlson, assistant professor at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, clarifies that "we're not telling people to stop buying treadmills. The question is how to get the right people to buy them. Everyone else should recognize they don't have the motivation, and take the money and use it on a personal trainer or something else that's going to get them motivated."

Build a stronger business by setting realistic expectations.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Avoid Looking for Excuses

Do you find yourself always looking for an excuse when something goes wrong? According to Edward R. Hirt, a psychologist at Indiana University, "this is real self-sabotage, like drinking heavily before a test, skipping practice or using really poor equipment. Some people do this a lot, and often it's not clear whether they're entirely conscious of doing it - or of its costs." This type of self-sabotaging behavior was coined "self-handicapping" by psychologists Steven Berglas and Edward E. Jones, in 1978. According Dr. Hirt and other psychologists who have studied this tendency, this urge self-sabotage is more common in men than in women. Another study showed that if one thought that they had a good excuse for poor performance, they were predicted to have worse performance, since they could rationalize their execution. This phenomenon was studied by Dr. Dean McCrea, a psychologist at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Build a stronger business by making commitments, not excuses.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Alternatives with Advantages

Xylitol is a natural substance found in fruits (ex. raspberries). It only has 1/3 of the calories of sugar, but tastes similar. It is sold as a powder, approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food additive, and harvested from birch wood or other natural substances. Items that utilize xylitol, such as sugar free gum or candy, can help one avoid sugar and therefore improve oral hygeine. Mutans streptococci is a bacteria that uses sugar to make energy. Lactic acid is released in this process, which can harm teeth by dissolving minerals. Xylitol does not feed these bacteria and can interfere with their funcitoning. The method in which this occurs is not fully understood. Jason Tanzer, a dentist and microbioligist at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Conn. suggests that the bacteria produce less lactic acid in the presence of xylitol. Other scientists believe that xylitol interferes with the bacteria's ability to adhere to teeth.

Build a stronger business by being aware of advantageous alternatives.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Buy a Movie and Load on Your Hard Drive

Sites offering movies for sale:

* Movielink (owned by Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner; Sony Pictures, Universal; MGM; and Paramount, a unit of Viacom)
* CinemaNow (movies from Sony, MGM and Lions Gate)

Apple, and other sites are working to add downloadable movies to their sites.

Though downloading movies provides easy access, the process can be cumbersome. According to Hansell in "At Last, Movies to Keep Arrive on the Internet" in The New York Times, "'a movie will need about 1 gigabyte of hard-drive space and will take an hour or two to download using a high-speed internet connection.'" Additionaly, many of the movies have limited methods by which they can be watched. Other limitations include the downloads not having some of the features offered on DVDs (deleted scenes, bonus features and filmmaker interviews). These limitations concern industry executives since chain stores and Web retailers often discount movies below wholesale costs to gain customers; these low price items are known as "loss leaders." However, even with their limitations, about 400 films can currently be send to your hard drive.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hotels Remembering Your Preferences to Gain Loyalty


* System: New database called "Mystique" catalogues employee observations about guests for all of the company's 60 hotels. Replaces an old system that couldn't share information as easily between hotels.
* Comment: Ritz doesn't ask guests to fill out a form - it instead relies on hotel staff to notice what guests like and dislike, and tailor services accordingly.


* System: "Rewarding Welcome" system asks guests for their preferences in pillow type, bed type, room location, extra towels or refrigerator. It now shares the information with eight brands, and 2,600 hotels.
* Comment: Guests fill out a form to participate, so the system is entirely optional.


* System: This year Hilton's guest recognition technology is being expanded to include in-room preferences, such as pillow, blanket, need for a crib or rollaway and early or late check in.
* Comment: In 2007, the hotel company hopes to roll out RFID-tagged cards for frequent guests to carry so that the hotel can track them around the property. Example: If the guest walks into the bar, the bartender can have his favorite drink ready before he has to ask. The company is also testing a way for its TVs to greet guests with a customized message when turned on.


* System: In April, Hyatt is rolling out an "e-concierge" system so that guests can tell the hotel in advance about their preferences for amenities life golf, spa and restaurants.
* Comment: Hyatt has a centralized guest history system that captures preferences like room type, amenity type, bed type and location near or far from an elevator. It has special codes employees can log into the system for preferences such as a guest who prefers grapefruit peeled and sliced in a certain way.


* System: Starwood (which includes brands like W Hotels, Westin, and Sheraton) doesn't have a tracking system other than its Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty program.
* Comment: The properties on its more luxurious end, like W, have internal guest-recognition systems. If a guest expresses a love for a certain sports team, the welcome desk will always provide that guest with a game schedule and a list of TV channels on which the team is playing. W asks guests if they want information about preferences to remain with one property, or expect it ot be honored throughout the chain.

Build a stronger business by paying attention to your customers and showing that they matter when they return.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Technology Tip: Synchronization is used to replicate and synchronize files across various computers. SugarSync can also be used to backup files by having them saved to a source outside your computer. SugarSynch offers a 35 day free trial with 10 gigabytes of file storage. After the trial, the 10 gigabytes can be maintained for $25 a year. Five other storage plans exist from $50 a year for 30 gigabytes to $250 a year for 250 gigabytes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

High Price Doesn't Always Accompany High Quality

Here's an example of someone who made a false start with e-marketing, reported in "Help With Your Business, Often Free, on the Web" in The New York Times. Jennifer Gordon, a Chicago based handbag designed attempted to promote her products through an e-mailed newsletter. However, she found that incorrect e-mail lists and outdated addresses led to undeliverable e-mail. Additionally, once a newsletter was sent out, she had not means of knowing if the document was ever opened.

Google Apps for Your Domain is a free group of web-based services. Small business owners can access tools to manage their website, as well as tool such as e-mail and instant messaging.

Numerous sites can also assist you with blogging. According to Ramon Ray, the publisher of, suggests that small business owners create blogs to increase Web rankings. Tools on (owned by Google) and provide free assistance. Also, provides advanced blog features for $5/month. Another useful web tool allows numerous individuals to share and edit a document, kept on a company's server ( and

Build a stronger business by using powerful tools readily available on the web.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Time is Relative

A (theoretical) timetable of events around the world, gelaned from a variety of news sources:
  • Every 2 seconds someone in America requires a blood donation. (American Red Cross)
  • Every 6 seconds someone dies from tobacco use. (World Health Organization)
  • Every 6 seconds an Australian buys an item of clothing on eBay. (The Age)
  • Every 6 seconds someone is killed or injured on a road somewhere in the world. (Make Roads Safe)
  • Every 15 seconds the Large Synoptic Survey telescope in Chile photographs a section of the night sky. A complete panorama of the firmament is completed every three days. (The Guardian)
  • Every 25 seconds someone in the United States is burned or scalded in the home. (Health News Digest)
  • Every 26 seconds a student drops out of an American public high school. (America's Promise Alliance)
  • Every 30 seconds someone in the world commits suicide. (W.H.O.)
  • Every 30 seconds a child with birth defects is born in China. (China Daily)
  • Every 30 seconds someone in the world loses a limb as a consequence of diabetes. (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Every 35 seconds a child in the United States is reported neglected or abused. (
  • Every 45 seconds a plane takes off or lands at Heathrow Airport, London. (The Economist)
  • Every minute 1,000 people around the world sign up fr a cellphone. (
  • Every minute 253 children are born into the world. (U.S.Census Bureau)
  • Every 4-8 minutes violent, profane, or sexual content appears during prime time "family hour" television programming. (Parents Television Council)
  • Every 8 minutes a woman in a developing country dies of complications from an unsafe abortion. (W.H.O.)
  • Every 15 minutes someone in Scotland has a heart attack. (British Heart Foundation)
  • Every 38 minutes Louisiana loses a football-field-sized portion of it s wetlands. (Science Daily)
  • Every hour & 44 minutes there is a case of "dowry death" in India. (The Guardian)
  • Every 2 hours someone in New Zealand fractures a hip. (Osteoporosis New Zealand)
  • Every 10 hours a driver with a suspended license crashes in Maine. (The Morning Sentinel)
  • Every Day more than 1.6 million blog posts appear online. (Technorati)
  • Everyday 6,800 are infected with H.I.V. (United Nations)
  • Every fortnight a language falls out of use. (The New York Times)
  • Every month 300 specialist nurses leave South Africa. (W.H.O.)
  • Every month the American government adds around 20,000 names to its terrorist watch lists. (A.C.L.U.)
  • Every month about 130 million rides are taken on the New York City subway. (M.T.A.)
  • Every year the average American eats nearly 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish. (The New York Times)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Making Food Faster by Adopting High Tech Tools

In "Making Fast Food Even Faster" (The New York Times), Fitzgerald examines the technical advances in the Fast Food industry. HyperActive Technologies, which uses artificial intelligence to predict customer flow, landed their first corporate customer, Zaxby's Franchising, a chain of 400 restaurants in Athens, Ga. in January 2007. It took four years to have a restaurant chain by their product. This is just one example that exemplifies the Fast Food industry's minimal adoption of new technologies.

However, restaurant technology companies are becoming more popular as "'it's the last $100 billion industry that still makes all its products by hand,'" according to r. Coulter, co-founder and chief scientist at HyperActive. Other companies are looking for new areas to access in the food service industry, such as "speed of service" and outside call centers to manage orders. New offerings, such as a wireless tabletop hub to improve table turnover provided by ESP Systems, are being assessed by restaurants.

Additionally, increased interest in new technologies does not always translate into implementation of them. The food industry is primarily focused on food quality and restaurant image. Roger C. Matthews Jr., head of the restaurant group at the investment banking unit of the Goldman Sachs Group, sats that this market is risk-averse as no restuarant can afford a computer failure at peak time. Additionally, other low-tech and low-cost alternatives are available, according to Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a food and restaurant industry consultant. More specifically, Neal E. Sessions III, director of information technology at Zaxby's says that "'the restaurant technology environment generally lags other industries by three to five years.'"

One way to build a stronger business is to take technologies you know and apply them to new industries.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Watch Your Root Canal as a Web Movie

In "You've Had the Root Canal. Now See the Movie," in The New York Times, Eisenberg discusses the addition of internet movies to dental practice. Dr. Jerry Gordon, who directed and starred in "Root Canal Demonstration" shows his patients a root canal through a YouTube video. The video cost $2,000 to make and has been viewed 11,000 times in two months. Dr. Gordon's practice has grown due to the addition of the video. In 2006, 26 new patients found him on the Web before the video, compared to 68 afterwards. Other dentists, such as Dr. Kristy Vetter ( have found the sheer act of opeing a website has increased new patients in the paractice, "'we've had three to five patients in the last month or so that came that way, instead of by referral.'" Dr. Vetter is also considering adding video clips to her website.

However, not all dentists believe that publicising videos of dental procedures is good practice: Dr. Roger P. Levin, cheif executive of the Levin Group, a dental consulting firm in Owings, md., remarks, "'I don't see videos of dental procedures on YouTube turning into much of a marketing tool, most people simply don't want to see how our procedures are done.'" Others, such as Julie Supan, YouTube's spokeswoman, see a rising trend in the viewing of on-line tutorials.

Educating your target market is a smart way to build a stronger business.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

What Does Money Trigger for You?

According to a journal article in Science, one's innate impulse does not encourage one to share, when thinking about money. Carey investiages this claim in "Just Thinking About Money Can Turn the Mind Stingy," in The Wall Street Journal. In an experiment involving 52 undergraduates, individuals who were primed to think about money worked on a difficult problem longer and were less likely ask for help or offer help. These "money thinking" students also placed themselves physically father from other people in a room (16 inches further apart). The researchers in this experiment suggest that the effect of money on people's interactions can be seen in everyday life, as those with finiancial resources often hire people instead of asking acquaintances for help. George Lowenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, "'this study shows its pernicious side, how the pursuit of money can be isolating.'"

Build a stronger business by emphasizing beneficial aspects of your business other than money.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Think Outside the Box

According to Delaney in "Google: From 'Don't Be Evil' to How to Do Good", in The Wall Street Journal, Google.Inc has engaged in a project which will merge the boundary between the profit and non-profit areas. In this $30 million proposal, efforts will be made to predict and prevent disease pandemics, increase the poor's access to public services, and create new jobs. They will also be joining other efforts to improve access to plug-in cars and renewable energy sources. According to the Foundation Center, these grants and proposals "make it larger than any in-house corporate foundation in the U.S." Both company and foundation resources are being utilized in this initiative. Other groups, such as eBay and Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network are also working to merger the profit and non-profit worlds.

Thinking outside the box and expanding your business's reach will build a stronger business.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Building Stronger Relationships Leads to Building a Stronger Business

According to “A Society of Men, Sharing Faith, Concerns and Wisecracks,” reported by Steele in The New York Times, men are coming together for fellowship and companionship in groups such as The New Canaan Society. This group began in 1995 by Jim Lane, a former Goldman Sachs general partner. He was seeking meaning in his life and male companionship. This group began with eight man and now the weekly meetings range from 175-250 men in attendance. The men are providing comfort and support to each other, which many of the highly successful men feel are missing in their lives. The group helps men to combat the isolation they often feel in their lives. Fellowship builds a stronger business.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just Because It's Popular Doesn't Make it Right to Bribe

According to a study first reported in Transparency International and later referenced in Winik's article, "World's Top Bribe-Payers", in Parade Magazine, the following nations’ businessmen were the most likely to offer bribes when conducting international business:

  1. India
  2. China
  3. Russia
  4. Turkey
  5. Taiwan
  6. Malaysia
  7. South Africa
  8. Brazil
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. South Korea

The Swiss and the Swedes were the least likely to offer bribes.

Build a stronger business through ethical behavior.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Help with Understanding Business Language

  • Business Lingo Explained -
  • The Ridiculous Business Jargon Dictionary -
  • The MBA Jargon Index -
  • Dilbert -

Thursday, May 06, 2010


  • Life is a series of commas, not periods.
    • Matthew McConaughey in Details
  • A person without regrets is a nincompoop.
    • Mia Farrow in the New York Times
  • Being an icon is overblown. Remember, as icon is moved by a mouse.
    • William Shatner in Esquire

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Travel Savings Tips for Entrepreneurs

  • Prices will stay low on common destinations, due to carrier competition.
  • Search sites that connect you to many other sites, such as,, and
  • You can save money buy buying a ticket directly from the airline's site.
  • Bring anything you will want for the flight to prevent yourself from paying for things you already have.
  • Keep you luggage within the airline's guidelines to avoid paying extra fees.
  • Look into online agents. Sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity may charge a small fee; however, they commit to helping you if something goes wrong with your travel plans.
  • Earn points through various programs to use towards awards at a later time.
Car Rental
  • Orbitz provides a fast car booking experience.
  • Understand what your personal insurance covers on a rental car. Consider paying with a Visa card, as all cars rented with this card will be covered.
  • Do a thorough examination of the car before taking it off the lot for dents. Photograph the car when you return it. This will provide proof of the condition the car was returned in.
  • Avoid pre-paying for gas through the rental office. This will cost you more than filling the car yourself, unless you return the car on "empty."
  • Enjoy renting an exciting car, such as the vehicles in Hertz's "Fun Collection."
  • Pay the full bill as early as possible. If you wait, you may incur extra charges, such as a fuel-related surcharge (up to $10 a day).
  • Check with a travel agent about repositioned ships. These have had to change their itineraries, usually due to weather, and therefore reduce their prices.
  • Make sure your trip is covered with cancellation insurance.
  • Hipper ships and low nightly rates can often be found at EasyCruise.
  • Calling a hotel at the last minute, or looking into or may allow you to access prices below the initial published rates.
  • Some hotel rooms, such as the Conrad London and select W Hotels, are coming equipped with am IPod docking station.
  • Amtrak offers a free companion fare for a parent and a child who is college-hunting. Visit
  • Carry the $3 Tide to Go stain remover pen to help stains disappear on the spot.
  • Join a travel club with will gain you access to free upgrades, spa visits, and luxury trips.
  • Research to learn about environmentally friendly trips.
  • offers a services where by affixing a sticker (from the company) to your items, the company with cover the cost of having your items returned you to.

Build a stronger business by using tips that make you and your budget go further.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Let Go of Aggravations is a Way to Increase the Quality of Your Life and Business

You can easily improve your life by limiting the amount of useless purchases and aggravations you allow into your life. The following items are just a few that clutter up your life, with suggestions on how to limit them:
  • Calls from telemarketers - Gain back your time by registering with the National Do Not Call Registry at (888-382-1222).
  • Antibacterial soap - Scientists have proven that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap. A good, 20-30 second, lather with any soap is effective.
  • ATM fees - Search out places that do not charge you an ATM fee. For instance, Citibank does not charge its customers to use other back's ATMs, Wawa does not add a surcharge, and many grocery stores and drugstores do not change you to take out cash when you are using your debit card for a purchase.
What else can you eliminate to free up your time and energy? Make these decisions to build a stronger business.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Humor and Wit Have A Place in Building a Stronger Business

With the national landscape swiftly changing, even the "water cooler" discussions about the prior evening's television-viewing have heated up from rehashing season premieres or the weather to highly-contested political debates and controversial government bailouts. Rich Masters, a specialist in teaching people how to prepare for televised talk shows, has several suggestions for keeping a cool head during these possibly heated discussions.
  • "Zing it!" Have one or two "zingers" ready, quotes that can help you break the ice or clinch the conversation. Think like Jon Stewart...have something amusing and memorable to add to the discussion that supports your argument.
  • "Don't Squawk Alone" Having someone like-minded to "jump in" gives you a chance to collect your thoughts.
  • "Give in-- a little" Don't be afraid to concede a smaller point to win the larger argument. Besides being agreeable can throw your opponent off-guard as well.
  • "Stay Calm and Polite" As Masters explains "If you are smiling it will leave the person with a positive impression." And luckily they cannot hear your thoughts.

Remember injecting humor into a situation with a pithy saying or a witty retort, maintaining relationships with like-minded people, being willing to concede on the small stuff, and remembering to take conflict in stride will help you maintain relationships as you build a stronger business.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Reflexive Reactions Happen in a Flash

    Why do some people seem to sneeze every time they walk out into bright sunlight? According to a new study reported in The Wall Street Journal in February, it's because one in four people have a "photic sneeze reflex". This reflex, caused by an extra-sensitive visual cortex, triggers the tendency to sneeze when suddenly exposed to sunlight or other bright light.

    In business, you sometimes encounter strong, unexpected reactions when dealing with people, both inside and outside your company.

    Build a stronger business by recognizing that some of the people you deal with have reflexive responses you may not experience yourself.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Is Social Media Valuable for Entrepreneurs?

    It may seem like a no-brainer: these days, businesses should use social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter as part of their marketing strategy. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, in 2009 social-media adoption by businesses with fewer than 100 employees doubled to 24% from 12%. If you're not addicted to social networking yourself, you're bound to know plenty of people who are.

    But social media may not be as useful as we think. A survey of 500 small-business owners found that just 22% made a profit last year from promoting their firms this way. A lot of time and energy can go into maintaining the company's presence on social sites, and rewards in sales - if they come - can be slow to arrive. Indeed, using social media "could harm you if you end up inadvertently saying something stupid, offensive or even grammatically incorrect," says Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University's Lubin School of Business.

    In order to see benefits from this kind of marketing, you have to be patient, dedicated, and consistent. Stephen Bailey, of John Fluevog Boots & Shoes Ltd., says his company saw a 40% increase in online sales in 2009, the first full year they consistently engaged in social media marketing. There are several free services available to help companies track Web traffic from social media sites, including Hootsuite, Google Analytics, CoTweet, and Lodgy.

    For some businesses, social media makes sense. Like everything else, though, it's not a silver bullet. Build a better business by using a smart marketing mix.

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Business Schools Tap Veterans' Potential

    There's a growing effort among business schools to attract former military members into their MBA programs. Veterans are often prized for their leaderships skills and alternative perspective. In addition, "they've been responsible for lives, which brings a gravitas to classroom discussion," says Deirdre Leopold, director of admissions at Harvard Business School. Harvard, which relies on students' personal experiences to drive the school's case study method, reports that veterans comprise 3% of the class of 2011.

    Even though business schools are seeking them out, veterans often have trouble paying MBA tuition, which can cost upwards of $150,000 for two years. As a result, schools have started offering large scholarships, often in partnership with the government. An increase in government funding through the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon Program, which gives a lump sum payment to each student beyond the GI Bill's offer, have also helped.

    The same qualities that make veterans attractive to business schools have also caught the attention of corporate recruiters. "They automatically know how to work in a team and they have respect," says Stacy Blackman, an M.B.A. admissions consultant and president of Stacy Blackman Consulting in Los Angeles. Bill Brenton, director of the leverage finance group at Credit Suisse Group, says a recent internal study found that employees with military backgrounds tend to be very successful, often due to a sense of discipline and ability to build camaraderie.

    Build a stronger business by utilizing people with transferable skills from non-traditional backgrounds.

    Tuesday, February 09, 2010

    Can Love Be a Science?

    Is true love a science? Plenty of online dating sites say it is., which features a questionnaire developed by a biological anthropologist, is supposedly designed to predict a couple's compatibility based on traits of temperament and on brain chemistry., goes several steps further: they aim to use genetic testing to create that now-not-so-magical romantic chemistry (cheek swabbing kit, DNA processing, and a criminal and bankruptcy background check are all included in the $1,995.95 lifetime membership).

    Both sites are an extension of the idea originally developed, which suggests that certain areas of compatibility – like values and important experiences – are solid predictors of relationships success. "In the long haul, you want to be able to manage conflicts, celebrate positives and get through the day-to-day relationship. Our system is there to take care of that so you can now focus on who you find really attractive, that you feel really passionate about, says Gian Gonzaga, eHarmony's senior director of research and development.

    Online dating is a $976 million annual industry in the U.S., according to estimates from the research firm Marketdata Enterprises. Sites like and eHarmony are building brand identity when they target people who are looking for relationships instead of just dating. In turn, they are able to charge more per subscriber.

    Creating a positive business relationship with your customers and partners also involves managing conflicts, celebrating wins, and making progress through day-to-day issues.

    Build a stronger business by being aware of how you structure and maintain your business relationships and being open to constructive feedback.

    Wednesday, February 03, 2010

    A New Way to Pay

    If you're ten years old, you can't use your own credit card to buy dog food at the local store. But now you can buy digital dog food for a online pet in much the same manner - using Kwedit. As reported in The New York Times, a new payment option has just become available to anyone, no matter how young they are. In the new system, a "Kwedit Promise" is used to buy items in games by FooPets and Puzzle Pirates. The items can be paid off later using a regular credit or debit card; with cash sent in a provided mailer; or by printing a barcode, taking it to your local 7-Eleven, and paying cash there.

    FooPets, which has over a million active members and signs up 20,000 to 25,000 new members each day, lets users adopt lifelike digitally animated pets and then buy virtual goods for them - everything from a bag of puppy chow for $3 to a bungalow for $333 - using Kwedit. "Buy now, pay later" is always a seductive marketing tool. Users are encouraged to pay the actual funds they owe by the fact that they accrue a Kwedit score, similar to a regular credit score, and more Kwedit is extended to each user based on his or her history of repayment. But since the marginal cost of virtual goods is negligible, there's no serious risk of major financial loss if the promise is not repaid.

    Like FooPets and similar systems - considered "nurturing games" that encourage responsibility and other adult lessons - Kwedit is a way to introduce young people to important ideas in a relatively safe environment.

    You can build a stronger business by applying the "nurturing games" concept to your customer service.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Quotes for the Day

    A few great quotes for the day:

    "Life is a series of commas, not periods."
      • Matthew McConaughey in Details

    "A person without regrets is a nincompoop."
      • Mia Farrow in New York

    "Being an icon is overblown. Remember, an icon is moved by a mouse."
      • William Shatner in Esquire

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Keep Your Mind Sharp...Surf the Web

    Recent research presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience suggests that surfing the Web may help your brain function better. The study looked at the brain activity of adults ages 55 to 78, half of whom used the internet daily and half of whom were first-time users. Participants had their brain scanned, spent an hour a day for a week performing internet searches, then had their brain scanned again. At the first scan, first-time internet users showed significantly less activity in brain areas involved with working memory and decision-making. But at the end of the week, their brain patterns closely matched those of the experienced internet users.

    Given these findings, the researchers suggest that online searching can be used as a brain exercise for older adults, and posited that doing so might even delay the onset of dementia.

    Build a better business by strengthening your mind. Take a step in this direction today to build momentum.