Youthful Entrepreneurship

July 18, 2011

My son Luke (11) and his cousin Logan (10) have the entrepreneurial bug.

This weekend they raked-in $60 in car wash sales. Going door-to-door, no less.

At one house there were two cars in the driveway. While in negotiations Luke said, “…we’ll probably get some spray on the other car, so you might as well have us wash both.” The customer agreed. (Nice up-sell!)

At another house they were abruptly told to come back another time. Before the door closed on them Logan stepped up, “…when, exactly, should we come back?” (Nice follow-up!)

These little guys have the next two days of door-to-door routes all lined up. They’re setting goals. And Luke even wrote out the key points of their formula:










Youthful entrepreneurship is a wonderful thing. And these are the summer’s our kids will remember and reflect on…when it all got started.

I’m thankful to witness these days….


Is Your “Self-Talk” Helping Or Hurting You?

July 5, 2011

As an avid runner I place a high value on the intimate conversations I have with myself while running.

It’s a great time to think, reflect, ponder, pray and yes, talk to myself about my life. Call me crazy.

Crazy or not, on some level, all of us have our own form of “self-talk”.

For some it’s more conscious than for others. But the fact is we’re constantly feeding our minds with positive or negative thoughts, ideas, hopes, or fears about whatever is currently relevant in our life.

It’s ironic that each of us wants wonderful things to happen in our lives but usually spend more time doubting, worrying, and dwelling on exactly what we don’t really want. I don’t know why we lean towards that type of negative “self-talk”.

Here’s what I do know; if we make a concerted effort to work toward and dwell on what we do want, hope for wonderful things, expect that they will occur, and choose to be happy despite our obstacles, we’ll be much more joyful and we’ll eventually get what we seek. It’s the truth.

Comedian Jim Carrey once explained his own experience with specific, positive self-talk.

He explained, “When I wasn’t doing anything in this town, I’d go up every night, sit on Mulholland Drive, look out at the city, stretch out my arms, and say, ‘Everybody wants to work with me. I’m a really good actor. I have all kinds of great movie offers.’ I’d just repeat these things over and over, literally convincing myself that I had a couple of movies lined up. I’d drive down that hill, ready to take the world on, going, ‘Movie offers are out there for me, I just don’t hear them yet.’ It was like total affirmations, antidotes to the stuff that stems from my family background.”

Lucky for him, he didn’t pay attention to the negativity of his family background and chose to affirm his success instead.

I’d say it worked out pretty well for Jim Carrey.

Why not you, too?

Here’s A Little Marketing Advice…

June 13, 2011

Over the years I’ve witnessed about every stage and cycle of business. I’ve also been a close observer of human nature throughout it all. I’ve had some big wins and some major misses.

Consequently, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about business, entrepreneurship, start-ups, fundraising, marketing, sales, management, and various success strategies.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But if I can help a business run more efficiently, or  a manager lead more effectively, or a professional improve personally…I want to do that.

Conversely, I’m always looking for ways to improve what I’m doing. I love the dialogue of improvement.

Recently I answered a few questions posed on my Facebook Fan Page  and thought I’d pass those conversations along to you here:

“I’m building an email list and starting a newsletter. I can’t decide what email management system to use. What do you use and why?”

“…I’ve researched and used several over the years. From Constant Contact, aWeber, Infusionsoft, to iContact. I currently use and highly recommend a system called Mail Chimp. It’s simple to use, robust, and priced very fairly. You can start using for free immediately and their customer support is excellent. That has been a serious complaint of mine in the past; poor customer support. Ironically, the systems that claimed to do the ‘most’ and were most expensive constantly dropped the ball. Go check out MailChimp and let me know what you think. Good luck! –Jeff”

“I was just about to register for a copywriting seminar that teaches how to write effective copy, start a blog, and create a marketing plan. The cost is $2,499 for the weekend. Do you think it’s worth spending that much?”

“…unless you just need a vacation, have an unlimited budget, or have an opportunity to spend true one-on-one time with a proven copywriting expert, like, all day with them!…I would tell you to save your money. Effective copywriting, like everything else in marketing, takes practice, experience and time. You won’t come home an expert no matter how much you pay or how incredible the expert is. You will probably get some great tips and advice, but you will still have to come home and apply, re-apply, and realize improvement over time. There are some incredible resources available to help you with this craft–for free! My first recommendation is Brian Clark of Go there and absorb it all. An excellent resource that I’ve referred to often. Another great source of free writing and marketing tips is from John Paul Aguiar of So, my friend, I hope I just saved you $2,499! Keep me posted! Jeff”

“I know you do alot of Webinars. Have you found a system that’s actually reliable? We keep running into problems…Can you help?”

“…I’ve probably experienced all of the problems that you’re experiencing. Dropped connections, frozen video, low resolution (if using video), confusing login process, software downloads, etc. Yes, I’ve researched and used most of them, from DimDim, WebEx, Go2Meeting, to VideoSeminarLive. About a year ago I happened upon a company called OmNovia. So far, they have been head-and-shoulders above the rest. I run all of my webinars through OmNovia now. Their ability to customize my entire webinar “room”, reasonable pricing, high quality resolution, strong connection, great customer service and overall simple experience has been a breath of fresh air for me. If I were you, I’d give OmNovia a try. Best of luck to you! Jeff”

Since I get a lot of questions, and I love to answer them if I can (sometimes I just make answers up. Kidding.), I encourage people to contact me directly with any question they have…from fundraising, to feedback on a webpage or marketing campaign, management questions, etc…by using my Action Institute Facebook Fan Page. I check it every day and I try to answer every single question that I get.

Connect with me there and fire off a question. I’d love to help. And if you’ve got info for me, please, teach me! Connect Here.

Oh to you skeptics…no, I’m not getting a referral fee from OmNovia, MailChimp, Brian Clark or John Paul. They’re doing just fine without me!

You’re An Entrepreneur

May 28, 2011

“Entrepreneur” isn’t a label reserved only for the builders of businesses.

Entrepreneurship is about creating something, usually from scratch. And all of us are doing that all the time, aren’t we?

The label of Entrepreneur is an accurate label for anyone who leads the creation of an organization. It’s a label for the builder of any successful movement, cause, family, project, team, or group; large or small.

There are few things so satisfying as creating something that produces great results, and more important, creates an environment for other people to serve in that cause.

You’re an Entrepreneur. Enjoy the journey of creating something great.

The Two Device Solution

May 24, 2011

I love and hate our access to information.

I love and hate technology.

Both are amazing and wonderful.

Both are intensely distracting and addictive.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to do some really great work and quickly I’ve taken an offramp onto an interesting, but useless article, update, post, or video.

Seth Godin expressed similar frustration recently and offered an interesting solution.

Question is, would I actually have the discipline to do this? Part of me wonders, If I don’t always have the discipline to stay focused on my task, will Seth’s solution do anything to change my self-control? Probably not, but still, its worth considering:

The two-device solution

Simple but bold: Only use your computer for work. Real work. The work of making something.

Have a second device, perhaps an iPad, and use it for games, web commenting, online shopping, networking… anything that doesn’t directly create valued output (no need to have an argument here about which is which, which is work and which is not… draw a line, any line, and separate the two of them. If you don’t like the results from that line, draw a new line).

Now, when you pick up the iPad, you can say to yourself, “break time.” And if you find yourself taking a lot of that break time, you’ve just learned something important.

John Wooden on Success and Leadership

May 23, 2011

John Wooden is widely known as the “winningest” coach in sports. He took great players, combined with just a sprinkling of over-achievers, and molded them into national champions, 10 times. Seven of them in succession; truly amazing.

Along the way, Coach Wooden established a reputation for something greater than winning national championships while at UCLA. He’s ultimately remembered as an example who taught his players and everyone around him how to become men and women of character. He taught them to be leaders. He taught them how to make sound decisions, develop skills, and reach potential.

Throughout the years he developed a system called The Pyramid of Success and the 12 Lessons in Leadership.  As I’ve begun to review his Pyramid and The Lessons in Leadership, I’m struck by the simplicity of the principles. They are true and always produce powerful results, if, that is, we choose to implement them.

I invite you to take a moment and click to enlarge the image below. What comes to mind as you review these building blocks? Are you willing to implement powerful principles?

Several years ago Coach Wooden revealed, in his own words, his definition of success. Simple and profound…

A Great Idea vs. A Great Leader

April 16, 2011

Would you rather have access to THE next great idea or access to a GREAT leader with a mediocre idea?

In a recent Inc. Magazine article, Bill Draper, world renowned venture capitalist, was asked this question, “When evaluating companies, do you pay more attention to the idea or the leader?”

Considering the intense focus by entreprepreneurs and investors for the “next big idea”, I think Mr. Drapers answer is telling.

He explained, “The Leader. Even if a product is wrong, a great, visionary leader will come up with another idea. During a presentation, I keep my eye on the top person, looking at how he interacts with his team, if he understands his audience, if he is the least bit unsure, or if he lacks information he should have had. Most of all, I am looking for judgment. Why did he make certain choices in life?”

Perhaps entrepreneurs should focus on leadership skills, sound judgment, and excellent decision making as their first priority. Then, and only then, does trying to find the next Great-Idea become a worthwhile endeavor.

Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big

March 5, 2011


When you typically think of a “business”, the image that comes to mind is an enterprise existing for the purpose of profit – and the more profit the better.

That’s what capitalism is all about, right? The entrepreneurial dream of starting from nothing and making it big – like Ray Kroc did with McDonald’s, or Michael Dell with Dell Computers.

That image makes a 180-degree turn in Bo Burlingham’s book , Small Giants”. He’s identified and analyzed 14 businesses that “Choose to be Great Instead of Big“.

Burlingham has delivered a great read that takes us deep inside fourteen remarkable companies that have chosen to march to their own drummer. They include Anchor Brewing, the original microbrewer; CitiStorage Inc., the premier independent records-storage business; Clif Bar & Co., maker of organic energy bars and other nutrition foods; Righteous Babe Records, the record company founded by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco; Union Square Hospitality Group, the company of restaurateur Danny Meyer; and Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, including the world-famous Zingerman’s Deli of Ann Arbor.

While doing research within these companies, Burlingham outlined The 7 Qualities of Small Giants that ran through all of the profiled companies:

  1. They consciously questioned the usual definitions of success and imagined different possibilities than the usual ones. This concept had surfaced in the world of professional businesses, such as CPAs, physicians, and architects, where people talk about having a profession rather than a job.
  2. The leaders had to overcome enormous pressures to take traditional paths to success. Often this meant rejecting outside capital and growth opportunities outside their usual geography.
  3. Each company has an extraordinarily intimate relationship with its local community in which it does business.
  4. Each company cultivated exceptionally intimate relationships with customers and suppliers based on personal contact, one-to-one interaction, and mutual commitment on delivering on promises.
  5. They had unusually intimate work places, which were in effect functional little communities that strove to address a broad range of their employee’s needs as human beings, creating an emotional, spiritual, and social, as well as the economic ones.
  6. This sample represents a broad variety of corporate structures and modes of governance that they have come up with to help them achieve their driving force.
  7. The passion that the leaders brought to what the company did—they loved the subject matter, whether it was music, safety, food, lighting, special effects, or constant torque hinges. They had deep emotional attachments to their business, and this deep emotional attachment extended, as mentioned earlier, to employees, vendors, customers, and their community.

Burlingham shows how the leaders of these small giants recognized the full range of choices they had about the type of company they could create. And he shows how we can all benefit by questioning the usual definitions of business success.

The 11 Killer Instincts of Entrepreneurship

March 1, 2011

The Killer Instincts of Entrepreneurship

February 15, 2011


Over the last 18 years I’ve been entrenched in the world of entrepreneurship. I’ve worked with great entrepreneurs, I’ve studied the greatest of them all, and I’ve lived the life of entrepreneurship.

I’ve learned that the best of the entrepreneurial breed have a distinct set of instincts. These instincts are what enable them to create a functioning organization from just that small spark of idea. It’s an amazing and miraculous process to witness and experience.

“Entrepreneurship” isn’t a label reserved only for the builders of businesses. It’s an accurate label for someone who leads the establishment of any organization. It’s a label for the builder of any successful movement, cause, project, team, or group; large or small.

Like a great athlete or musician with natural instincts, some people are born with amazing and obvious entrepreneurial instincts. Others…not so much. But like sports, music, or anything else, one can choose to learn through study and practice, the instincts of entrepreneurship. With persistence anyone can become a successful builder of an organization, movement, or cause.

There are few things so satisfying as establishing an organization that produces something of worth, and more important, creates an environment for other people to serve in that cause.

During the last few years I’ve been speaking and teaching about, “The 11 Killer Instincts of Entrepreneurship.” These are the instincts shared by the family of common and famous entrepreneurs from around the world and from the annals of history.

The true leaders and top performers in every company, profession, industry, or charity possess a majority of these instincts. How do you measure up?

1. The Solution Instinct: This is about problem-solving ideas and always seeing them. It’s about seeing new opportunities while traveling, shopping, or working. Seeing problems and potential solutions to those problems is at the heart of every valuable idea. Creativity is a dominant force in this process.

2. The Detective Instinct: This is about fact-finding and due-diligence. It’s about letting go of the emotion and excitement of a good idea and taking a venture-capitalist approach. This instinct is something that keeps one constantly assessing how an organizational model will work, scale, and succeed…without personal bias.

3. The Great Communicator Instinct: This is about connecting and continually selling the message. It’s a constant awareness that every point of communication matters. Whether communicating with partners, investors, vendors, employees, or competitors; every communication is an opportunity to strengthen your mission and be the leader of your cause.

4. The Youthful Genius Instinct: This is about doing what you love. When we were young, we dreamed big dreams and showed glimmers of what we might become. Tapping into the expectation and excitement of our youth is central to successful entrepreneurship.

5. The Entrepreneurial Heritage Instinct: This is about how our heritage can reveal our deeper passions and purpose. Exploring the accomplishments and failures of your roots can help one tap into opportunity, passion, and purpose. There is a reason why many families pass along entrepreneurial success and create “dynasties” of their own.

6. The Risk-Taker Instinct: This is about going out on a ledge. No risk, no reward. It’s the fundamental factor for crossing the chasm of an idea to an organization. Finding the calculated balance of risk and opportunity is key.

7. The Work-Horse Instinct: This is about paying the price. Doing whatever it takes. Those “overnight successes” usually require at least 5 years of hard work and incredible sacrifice to get there.

8. The Thick-Skinned Instinct: This is about being tough. Resilience, optimism and a positive mindset reside in every great entrepreneur. What is the fundamental key to success in attaining goals? To never give up.

9. The Flexibility Instinct: This is about being willing to change. Emotion and pride must be removed from the process while building an organization and paying attention to the best route to take. The right path naturally eventuates; if you’re able to recognize it and willing to take it.

10. The Human Instinct: This is about people. Attracting the best people is more important than the idea itself. Treating people well, leading well, and serving with care is a fundamental reason why anything worthwhile should be built in the first place.

11. The Knowledge-Quest Instinct: This is about constantly learning. Reading, thinking, listening, observing, absorbing, and applying is a hallmark instinct of a great entrepreneur.