Month: January 2012

Intellectual Property: “We’re Heading for the Clamp Down!”

There has been much to say lately about recent events. Legislation backed by big business, governments, and others have many in an uproar. There is good reason to be weary of this heavy-handed legislation, but there is another side that many just don’t get. “What I create and own, I created and own, not you, its mine so hands off.” That is a very crude, over simplified statement but I meant it that way. It’s to the point. Just because technology has allowed for manipulation or distribution of products doesn’t give anyone the right to use it anyway they see fit just because they can. It’s this lack of understanding how seemingly innocuous deeds not only open up a can of worms, but open an entire worm farm. All the while the perpetrator feels indignant and lays down as defense that this is a so-called “right” because it’s on the internet. But really is it?

Once again let me be clear, I am NOT stating I agree with SOPA/PIPA/ACTA or anything related. What I am stating is the defense being offered for these regulations not to be implemented is exactly what will give them even more reason to enact them. By their own deeds they might be sowing the demise of the internet as we now know it. I’ll give you an example to think about because I believe it’s a great thought experiment for you to use. You should be able to come at this from both sides, 1: As the creator of the original idea, the owners, and people portrayed as involved or appearing. 2: By the person who created the new fictional idea and story line. Sorry I have to use a link but you can not participate in the experiment if you don’t watch this trailer.

What you need to remember is this is something created by a fan, not someone affiliated with the owners, actors, or studio that owns the original content or copyrights. And although it’s very good work, it’s fantasy and not the work of the people, actors or studio that are displayed. Its intention is obviously to give the illusion, but at what point does this fantasy morph into something that is detrimental to the actual brand, studio, or actors? The argument that it never would be is not a defense. Things happen and that’s why there are certain rules to protect ideas because there are real lives with real money, and livelihoods at risk. Just pose to yourself that you own the rights to the ideas, the actors, the studio, and everything else associated with it. Does someone have the “right” to create something like this and distribute it with the defense of “If someone were to confuse this for the real thing, well that’s their problem.” I feel this argument and non understanding of just pure business practices and models is exactly what will give the people who want to use a sledgehammer to swat a fly a steam shovel to bury the internet as we now know it. Here’s a few questions to get your mind working on this exercise. there are many more, but you can hear the lawyers battle cry over the hills for both sides.

At what point is it parody? At what point is it too much like the real thing? Is the work up to the quality that all the actors, studio, directors, and backers put their name on? What if it was your product, would you approve? And Why? What would happen if your fan base took it as real? What if your fan base thought your were trying to use it as a mask for a plausible denial public release story? Or using it to see if you were to go ahead with such project? What if when you or your stars were out on the Red Carpet or at other venues talking about an upcoming film all that was being asked of them was if this bogus trailer was the real deal? What if the entertainment channels and media venues became relentless in their questioning and you couldn’t say anything other than to answer questions about something that wasn’t even real? Would that hurt your brand, your marketing, your sales, your actors or studios reputations? What happens if your fan base likes the idea of the fictional trailer and is disappointed in your actual release of something different and start bad mouthing your product or actors for not having the vision to adapt the bogus trailer?

And that is just touching the surface!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures in Stupidity, Customer Service

If there’s one thing people sneer at it, it’s the term “Customer Service.” This has become such a joke that it rivals any signs of intelligence let alone “service.”

This entry once again is something that happened to me, not someone else…Ready?

My wife had previously subscribed to a magazine. She had been a loyal subscriber for years, but decided not to renew. What did this magazine decide was a great way to woo her back? Send threatening letters of amounts due for renewal as a way to intimidate her to start the subscription that she had cancelled. She was notified that her magazines were “On Hold from mailing” and would not commence until she paid for the renewal. I think writing and telling them “Cancel Do Not Renew” on her last invoice was not clear enough? (and yes she was paid in full) So I wrote back to them via their email billing server. I wrote (and I’m paraphrasing) “This subscription has been cancelled and we no longer receive your magazine and have no intent of doing so again. If I receive another threatening invoice from your magazine stating we have been put on notice to your “Collection Department” I will report you and your magazine to the proper authorities, and you can take this up with them.”

Here’s a screen shot from after I hit send:

Apparently they must be very busy handling all their other happy customers. And they wonder why they’re losing business!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Breaking Through an Entrepreneur’s Crisis: “No Time to Sell!”

(My column as appeared in Upmarket Magazine week of Jan. 22nd)

In today’s world of ever-changing economic conditions one thing remains constant, “If you’re in business, you need to sell, period!”

Of course this comes as no shock to anyone. However the excuse of having no time as the owner, founder, chief cook, and bottle washer is irrelevant. If you can’t find time then your only alternative is to now “create” time. This can be done, but by all means forget about reading books on “Time Management.” I can’t think of a larger waste of your resources as a business owner. The frustration for owners or entrepreneurs is they only see the act of “selling” through the traditional salesperson model. If you’re currently bogged down in everyday tasks because you’ve either lightened up on staff, or your business has increased and you’re currently filling voids yourself, you will not only find excuses for not adding anything that resembles an additional task, but the sheer thought of going out and “selling” will be avoided. Trouble happens when the delay of resolving this dilemma gets amplified into a crisis. The more you find ways to allow yourself the alibi of “having no time” (and you know you will) the faster it will take you into crisis. There is another way. Change from Selling to Informing. Become a “Thought Leader” in your business community.

Many have read books or learned much through trial and error. What you may not remember is just like your views and actions changed from employee to owner, you now need to change your tactics on how you sell as compared to someone you would hire. As an owner it’s a daunting task to conceive let alone try going door-to-door pushing your wares. But as a “Thought Leader” you can reach prospective clients in your respective area of business by offering insights on your business that can or may impact other business people. You could talk or give a speech at civic events or local chamber meetings, etc. This can multiply your efforts and in turn help in allotting for that most precious of resources, time.

Here’s an example:

You own a small breakfast hot spot. You need to get the word out you’ve changed the menu or added new items. All your current customers already know what you’re doing because you sell them on any changes with your on-site interactions. But now it’s about people who don’t know right? So, do you hire a salesperson to hit the streets and tell more? Spend precious resources in failed advertising campaigns? Go knock door-to-door yourself after you washed the dishes? Of course not, however what you can do is talk to other like-minded individuals about aspects of your business that is comparable with either troubles or triumphs they too might be experiencing. Speaking at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting about the way gas prices have put pressure on your food suppliers, and the ways you have met these challenges goes a lot further to provide your business with exposure to possible new patrons than “Hello I’m John or Jane from Our Diner. Let me tell you about this week’s menu special.” I also contend this carries far more credibility than if you decided to donate free pastries to the very same event.

John or Jane Smith the owner of Our Diner speaking to other like-minded business people about issues they can relate to is far more effective than trying to sell or tell them this week’s menu. You needn’t even tell them you serve food! That fact was already sold the moment you are introduced as being from Our Diner. And for anyone in attendance whom might never heard of your establishment, they have now. As you can see in this example you’re not appearing like you’re trying to sell, but you are selling. This method greatly enhances your return on that most precious investment called time.

Now whether or not the food is any good is another matter. But you can always hire another cook. What you can’t hire is another salesman like you.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it….Get this!)

A while back I wrote about my thoughts when Gene Simmons was on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice and was fired in a pretty dramatic episode. As many of you know it had to do with his vision with promoting Kodak®. As of this writing Kodak has filed for bankruptcy but it doesn’t stop there. In a world where everything is changing it has become abundantly clear to anyone in the print business of any kind that if you are to actually deliver a physical product such as a photograph, newspaper, etc. that business model is just about dead. It’s not increasing but shrinking. So just when you think these CEO’s whom are supposed to be at the least “In touch” with the market show once again like music, magazines, newspapers, and others. They just don’t get it.

To back up my statement here is a quote from a Bloomberg piece on the Kodak story. As I said before in the commodity business, there is always someone to do it cheaper than you. And Printing is a commodity business, Capturing memories is not. So what is a company on its last legs to do? I submit exhibit A…

From Bloomberg.com

“Perez plans to increase Kodak’s share of the consumer inkjet printer market, which he has valued at $45 billion, by designing cheaper replacement cartridges. He wants to dominate commercial printing of magazines, books, newspapers and advertising with high volume inkjet machines that are faster and digitally flexible, to deliver smaller and more customized batches cheaper than old-tech presses and plates as the world moves toward on-demand publishing.”

Just like Vegas, when you’re going broke I guess the best strategy is to double down.

Quick someone loan me their phone. No one will ever believe this without a picture!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Captain First, Then Rats, Followed by Women and Children!

The disgraceful actions taken by the Captain of the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia once again remind us that there are people in places of authority regardless of the stellar credentials they may have are nothing more than poor examples of vermin. (My apologies to vermin everywhere)

In the wake of the despicable actions displayed by the captain, it seems that many in the crew were just as easily persuaded that responsibility for passengers ended as soon as something endangered them. All of this so deplorable as to the sanctity of trust it makes one wonder if we can take any refuge in thinking maybe, just maybe, I can put my faith here. It’s starting to seem more and more you can’t.

In today’s world there are so many places that we need to put some form of trust into an individual or company. We can try our best to learn about things so that we can make informed decisions but that goes only so far. You can’t fly a jet liner so you have to trust that the pilots and crew are competent. Neither can you ensure that the money in your retirement account is actually there. Why? Need I remind you of Bernie Madoff? Maybe that’s ancient history now since it happened over 2 years ago so let’s give another example MF Global. You remember them. Their the ones with that guy with the title “The Honorable” John Corzine. (They made sure that placard was shown when he first appeared at the Congressional hearing) It seems for some reason he doesn’t know where BILLIONS of his clients funds are. Maybe we should cut him some slack since billions in his past government positions can be the equivalent of a rounding error. And I guess while we’re at it we should cut the captain and crew of the cruise liner some also. I mean really, did anyone think that if the ship was actually sinking they should be there for help and guidance to the passengers? C’mon the ship is sinking “everyman for themselves” is the true battle cry of these disgusting examples of humanity. So what if an airline captain is found to be drunk as he was flying an airliner full of passengers 30 thousand feet above the Earth near the speed of sound. Maybe it was just a once in a career event, not like anyone got hurt right? It’s us who should lighten up, these guy’s are under real pressure, we don’t understand the tremendous pressures this class of us are under. This is what we’ll hear almost verbatim by the lawyers that will be hired. Just pathetic in my view.

As disgusting as all these example of late may be, it just goes to show you that character matters. And the only way one can reserve the right to be mad at this collection of vermin is that you yourself are leading a life of telling the truth, doing what you promised, doing your best no matter what you’re doing, and just because no one would ever know you did it, you do the right thing because you know. If you don’t, then you have no right to complain when it may be done to you or to others.

Character matters and it begins and ends with you.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

The Efficiency in Being Inefficient

( My column as appeared in UpMarket Magazine Week of Jan. 15th )

As sales people try to become more efficient during economic upturns i.e. Handle more sales using more efficient means. Buyers do something similar but in the opposite direction during economic downturns. They become efficient at being inefficient.

At first this may seem as a play on words or it makes no sense, however I’ll assure that not only is it true, but it can be a powerful way companies, families, or just about anyone uses when they don’t want to commit to purchase, invest, change, etc.

A great example of this was identified in a recent corporate earnings release from Oracle®. As I was listening to a financial network give highlights on the report I heard what deemed as a throw away line for most. But to my ears it wasn’t. One of the reasons they asserted for sales being pushed back into latter quarters was (I’m paraphrasing) “Companies have added more management layers to the decision-making process hence increasing the time in the purchasing approval process.” That line is very telling if you’re truly listening. The way most salespeople react to this type of information will also distinguish the average from the super stars.

In today’s economic climate many salespeople will end up spinning their wheels more than ever because buyers have greased the tracks. What buyers of every stripe will do when implementing this technique is to give salespeople just enough hope that what is actually a no sale can possibly turn into a sale once the right person approves the purchase order, or the budget gets allocated, or their boss signs off, and on, and on. This also allows the possible buyer to keep all their options open while continually dragging along the resources of the sales persons time in endless negotiations with other levels of management. Deals that were assumed to be agreed upon suddenly find themselves undercut by some competitor while they were waiting for the approval that was “promised” to be any time now.

The only efficient way of dealing with it is to get back to the fundamentals so many forget or disregard. Is the person you are in front of the one who can authorize the sale or write the check if an agreement is made today. Anyone that can not perform that task is a gate-keeper not a true buyer. The time you’ll spend spinning your wheels in front of gate-keepers is time lost not searching out a true economic buyer. You must qualify, qualify, qualify. Only when you are in front of the person responsible for cutting the check or giving the final approval should you be giving your real sales pitch for them to buy. All other talking should be directed at getting you there. If you can’t get in front of the real buyer, then stop wasting your breath, time, or resources and move onto looking for another prospect because one thing is for sure.

An efficient sales process is only valid once the check has been cashed and cleared the bank. As of this writing “Sounds good, I’ll get purchasing to take a look at it.” or ” Send me a proposal so I can show it to my boss.” or “I’m waiting to hear what they think.” is not accepted anywhere as legal tender.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved


Why Many Big Paydays Result in Bankruptcies

Ever wonder just when it seems a company you know or hear of as a rising star that seems to have nothing but the brightest future ahead of it unexpectedly goes out of business just as fast? Or in the case of media stars that are all the rage then become totally irrelevant even faster? Usually it can be traced back to the “Big Payday.”

Some brands or companies have staying power. Same goes for talent such as movie stars or singers.  What we don’t see is the far greater number of everyday people who fall into this category because they are not in the public eye. Their stories fall by the way side and we wonder if it was just an act of fate. I believe it has less to do with fate and more to do with handing the reins over to someone else once the “payday” has been reached. Happens all the time in new start-ups. Some new company goes public with an IPO making the founders rich beyond their dreams then suddenly we find them out of business a year later. Most want to complicate it by adding excuses or alibis to all the reasons why they are no longer in the spot light, or worse no longer solvent. Many times what happens is once the ultimate goal they set is reached i.e., stardom, money, breaking records, positions of status, they feel they can now relax. Sound too simplistic? That’s the problem.

The first clue for trouble can be noticed when day-to-day efforts of anything are to be done through some underling, or done through some management company, etc. Another sign that trouble might be on the horizon is in watching how long it takes them to farm out the chore of actually opening their own utility bills and writing the check themselves. (The horror!) These are just first stages in the problems associated with the big “pay-day.” Others that can be just as damaging or prove disastrous even quicker is when this same attitude gets applied to their actual work or business. They no longer worry about prospecting for new clients or markets. Why? Because business is so good right now all they need to do is not lose any and the gravy train will keep on running. History proves it won’t. The road is littered with examples in the dangers once you turn over the helm of running your life or business in any way to someone else whether it be the small details or large ones, No one cares or will care for your financial fitness or career like you regardless of how much money you now may make. Most will never realize this until it’s too late.

Nothing creates success like more success, but you have to continually work at it yourself. No one is going to keep it for you no matter what you can now afford to pay them. You’ll never have enough.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Some Free Advice…

I’ve learned many things by trial and error in my career, but when I was asked to write a pithy statement to the question of: “What insight have you learned over the years that you wish you had known, or would recommend to anyone else if they were just starting out in business?”

Here’s my response:

“Don’t start a project before you both have signed a summation of exactly what is expected to be performed and how each is to be compensated and when. This summation is not a contract drawn up by some legal department or subject to it. Rather it should be a written document on points already agreed upon so that if terms change midstream you may stop performing all duties till you once again both have a clear understanding of the changes to continue in good faith. If not you risk doing work you may never be able to collect on.”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Team Building 101…Dump the Committees

(My column as appeared in UpMarket Magazine week of Jan 8th)

In the world of business we hear from just about anyone who strides a stage or whips out the PowerPoint® presentation that it’s about “Teams.” They blather ad nauseam about team building. Most regurgitate so many old and tired metaphors to emphasize their points one needs to wonder if they purchased them by the ton. “There’s no I in team!” I swore if I ever heard that one again I would walk out of the meeting even if it meant I would be fired. Enough already what’s next “Right brain, Left brain thinking?” Forget the pink slip. I’ll save a tree and leave right now.

Teams and team building is what most say they want their organization to resemble. The problem most never understand is that on a team there can not be any winners or losers within the team without effecting the well-being of the team. When you have one person who can win at the expense of another you don’t have a team you have a committee. The two are similar when viewed from a distance however they are geared and designed to exploit very different objectives.

Teams share a common goal. That goal could be winning a game, designing a new widget, or research project just to name a few. Everyone on the team shares the common quest for the attainment or successful outcome of the project, however if for some reason one persons input needs to be discounted or not used that person is neither to be offended nor felt left out. They may need to switch roles, or work on something that seems unrelated to outsiders, but for the winning of the team in its goal nothing is too big or too small a chore. On a team, the team winning is all that matters even if it means one of the members needs to be sidelined. That is not the way committees work, and that’s what most are but they call themselves the former.

Committees are important and necessary. They allow for different teams to coalesce and fight for why their project, research, and others have a need. Another would be to validate their funding. You get the idea. But unlike a team the members on a committee don’t share the most fundamental principle needed for a team. In a committee someone can win big while an other can lose. (and lose big!) Here’s an example:

In a committee made up of different department heads say the warehouse department wants more influence or control of inventory decisions, but that would entail hindering the purchasing department. While the warehouse department might win the argument for having the control, the purchasing department would in effect be losing. Maybe with that decision the purchasing department doesn’t take advantage of some deeply discounted volume buy that would give the sales force an edge over the competition because the arguments over control have been decided by committee to reside with the warehouse. The warehouse might now be running like a Swiss clock, but other departments could suffer greatly. Understanding this dichotomy and managing each effectively is what sets winning teams or companies apart.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr, All Rights Reserved

Some News I’m Very Proud Of

Today I am very pleased to announce that I am a weekly contributor to the newest magazine launched by Squidoo.com aptly named UpMarket. This is a very exciting time for me as I’ll explain.

For those whom might not be familiar with Squidoo, it is the brain child of Seth Godin whom is by far one of the most well-respected marketing gurus of this age. Mr. Godin has been shaking up the world of publishing over the last decade with not only his own books and lectures, but with actual companies launched under his tutelage. Squidoo as of this writing is currently ranked #73 out of the millions of websites in the United States as measured by Quantcast. Squidoo now gets more traffic than Digg, NBC, or Hulu. (and a few others you’d be surprised at) Another project of his that is shaking up the world of books is The Domino Project which is powered by Amazon®.

If there is anything certain about this new platform and venue is it demonstrates how everything is in flux, and anything is possible but only if you’re willing to play. And I am grateful for the opportunity to “suit up.”

You can view my first article and the launch of this magazine here. You can also view and read the articles on Facebook® here. This platform allows and makes effortless the ability for you to comment and share anything you read and you’re encouraged so have fun.

I know I am!

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr