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    Strategies for Startup, Growth, and Change

    How valuable are brands?

    Bumper sticker: There’s nothing a little Starbucks and Disney can’t fix

    Taio Cruz, in his 2010 song Dynamite, sings,

    “I came to dance, dance, dance, dance

    I hit the floor ’cause that’s my plans, plans, plans, plans

    I’m wearin’ all my favorite brands, brands, brands, brands

    Give me some space for both my hands, hands, hands, hands.”

    For Taio (and his fellow songwriters on that particular number), the clothing he wears makes a difference in the quality of his experience. But it’s not the cut, color, or look of the clothing, it’s the brand that matters. It’s the same reason Taio rolls up on a sick BMW motorcycle in the music video for this song. We define ourselves by the brands we choose.

    In the (now-classic) Christmas movie A Christmas Story, the narrator (Ralphie) explains his father by saying, “Some men are Baptists, others Catholics. My father was an Oldsmobile man.”

    As customers, we define ourselves by the brands we consume. Many people think of themselves as Marlboro Men or Lululemon girls. We create self-conceptions based on our status as Wal-mart shoppers or Whole Foods people.

    If you鸿运彩票新版’re crafting a brand, identify the hooks that you鸿运彩票新版r customers use to identify with you鸿运彩票新版r brand. Remember that you鸿运彩票新版r market doesn’t just want to buy a product or service – they want an experience with you鸿运彩票新版r brand.  Use the creation of a brand to make meaning and create community.

    You know you鸿运彩票新版r brand is successful when you鸿运彩票新版r customers start identifying each other and interacting apart from you鸿运彩票新版. Photoshop User Magazine and Photoshop World is a great example. Owned by Kelby Media Group, this community is a user group that collects Adobe’s fans and customers and allows them to celebrate and improve the work that makes them Adobe users. When you鸿运彩票新版r customers are willing to fly across the country to meet other like-minded customers, you鸿运彩票新版 have created a very engaging brand.

    Here are some steps toward strengthening you鸿运彩票新版r brand:

    1. Identifying you鸿运彩票新版r brand’s values.
    2. Where are there people who care about what you鸿运彩票新版 care about? Who cares about this more than you鸿运彩票新版 do?
    3. How can you鸿运彩票新版 add value to these people’s lives?
    4. What tangible interaction points can you鸿运彩票新版 craft with you鸿运彩票新版r customers?
    5. What elements can you鸿运彩票新版 add to the customer experience to surface the things that you鸿运彩票新版 and you鸿运彩票新版r customers care about?

    Use the Contact page if you鸿运彩票新版’d like to talk about building you鸿运彩票新版r brand.

    Featured Entrepreneur: Pitman Farms

    I had the privilege this week of visiting Pitman Farms, the company behind . Though I didn’t meet Mary or her husband Rick, I did get to sit down with their son Ben. He told us about the family business, including their successes and their lessons. He shared with me this video.

    Some of my favorite moments in the video:

    • When Rick Pitman said, “Our goal is to sell chickens, but our purpose is to create jobs.” He’s in an area of intensely concentrated poverty and high unemployment, and the risk taken by this family of entrepreneurs is making life better for hundreds of workers and their families.
    • Mary’s connection to her customers via her phone number on the bags. the feedback she gets directly from their customers is an extremely effective form of market research.
    • Rick didn’t wait when he heard about the plant available in Sanger. I’m sure he worked out the numbers, but he didn’t take a year to game out every scenario before pulling the trigger on the location.
    • This is a great reminder that family business is personal, and the successes and failures of family business are very personally felt.

    If you鸿运彩票新版 want to read more about family business, I recommend buying a copy of by John Ward or by my friend .

    Money to start you鸿运彩票新版r business

    Do you鸿运彩票新版 want some money to start you鸿运彩票新版r business? Of course you鸿运彩票新版 do! Otherwise, you鸿运彩票新版 wouldn’t be reading websites like this one. While you鸿运彩票新版 have many good options for financing a start-up, I want to offer you鸿运彩票新版 another one. This is the Jump Start loan program offered by the .  This is a small loan, ranging from $500 to $10,000.

    You can use it to buy equipment or inventory, improve you鸿运彩票新版r signage, or set up a website. There’s no minimum credit score and very little paperwork. If you鸿运彩票新版’re interested in this startup loan program, contact Rich Mostert at the VSBDC. Rich can be reached at (559) 476-3975 or rich鸿运彩票新版@vsbdc.com. I recommend working with these guys; they funded my first business loan many years ago. If this loan program isn’t right for you鸿运彩票新版, they have others to look at.

    If you鸿运彩票新版 want to read about funding a small business, take a look at .

    *Disclosure: I’m not in any kind of relationship with VSBDC – I’m just passing this information on for you鸿运彩票新版r benefit. They don’t pay me any kind of commission or kickback.

    Reading for Entrepreneurs: The Lean Startup

     The Lean Startup is a book that’s foundational for understanding much of the conversation around entrepreneurship today. But here’s the thing: if you鸿运彩票新版 haven’t read the book, it’s not what you鸿运彩票新版 think it is. I talk with business leaders and academics all the time. When I mention , almost everyone makes an assumption about the title. They think that it means starting a business with resource constraints. But everyone who starts a business does so with constraints. Everyone feels pressure to do more with less.

    But Lean Startup isn’t about doing more with less. Rather, it’s a fundamentally different approach to developing products and services that involves customers from an early stage of development. Eric Ries developed these concepts with Steve Blank and has tested them in his own businesses and with thousands of other startups around the world. This approach has wantrapreneurs start with a customer pain and develop the simplest possible solution to that pain. This is called an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. The next step is testing the product with customers to see if it does, indeed, meet the customer’s need in the way that was intended. The entrepreneur then takes the product through a build -> measure -> learn process of iterative development. The whole idea is to develop in a way that proves the value being created for the customer at every step. This keeps entrepreneurs from developing a really cool product or service that no one wants.

    This methodology works really well for software, where iterative development and easy customer testing are very accessible. But it can work across a whole range of products or services, and much has been written about how to do this. As a matter of fact, follow-on books to The Lean Startup have become something of a cottage industry. This is a mark of the book’s stature in the conversation.

    I realized the centrality of The Lean Startup to our current dialogue when I took a bunch of students to the  Global Conference back in February. Speakers kept referring to concepts like MVP and customer development. I kept leaning over to whichever student was closest and trying to summarize these concepts in a way that made sense. Most of those explanations ended with, “…You should just read the book.”

    The ‘Lean’ in ‘Lean Startup’ comes from the lean manufacturing movement. Lean manufacturing is a continuous improvement methodology developed in Japan at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno. It was first called the Toyota Production System, of TPS. An understanding of the paradigm-busting thinking that goes into Lean manufacturing will help to set up the foundations for The Lean Startup. If you鸿运彩票新版 want a good explanation of Lean, I recommend .

    There’s plenty more to say about Lean Startup, but this should be enough to get you鸿运彩票新版 started. Will you鸿运彩票新版 read the book? What were you鸿运彩票新版r thoughts? What important concepts did I miss?

    Enjoy the reading!

    Reading for entrepreneurs

    Entrepreneurs are curious people. They’re driven to create, and part of that process involves learning from others. The most successful entrepreneurs read – a lot.

    Much of my business education comes from the books I’ve read. As I was mentoring a you鸿运彩票新版ng entrepreneur recently, he asked me for a list of books to read. Once I started the list, I realized it’s rather long. I’ve decided to share that list here with you鸿运彩票新版, along with reviews to help you鸿运彩票新版 get the most out of these books (and prioritize them along with the rest of you鸿运彩票新版r work).

    Books on a curving library wall

    Image by , used in accordance with .

    What e-ship books do you鸿运彩票新版 think are must-reads?

    Stay tuned for future posts on Reading for Entrepreneurs!

    How to get started with hardly any money

    This is a slideshow from a talk I gave .

    It goes through some bootstrapping techniques used when starting a new business. This talk concentrated on Social Enterprises and the unique advantages and challenges of such. “What is a social enterprise?” you鸿运彩票新版 may ask. That’s a great question and a subject for another day’s blog post.

    For now, please let me know if there are areas of the presentation that you鸿运彩票新版’d like to see explained in detail. Leave a comment below if you鸿运彩票新版’d like to talk about this further.

    The Slides

    The Presentation


    鸿运彩票新版 Visits: Manufacturing

    I have the opportunity to take students inside four different manufacturing companies this week. These companies are really opening up to talk about sales, production, accounting, production scheduling, labor and personnel, and other useful business topics. Below are the first two company visits, posted over at a web site I created for the project, . Follow along and enjoy!



    How entrepreneurs get things done

    Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.Entrepreneurs are creatives. They’re pushed by external forces and pulled between ambitions that compete for mental space. Their dreams are rarely linear and often interrelated. Putting timelines to dreams is one of the hardest tasks an aspiring entrepreneur can face. They need systems for capturing, making sense of, and dealing with vastly disparate interests, from this month’s accounting to regulatory concerns to a new product direction. In a sense, entrepreneurs are the idealized type of the knowledge worker, but amplified to the furthest degree. Knowledge workers often have structures or supervisors to reign in their creativity, but entrepreneurs typically have neither. Their structures must be self-constructed if they exist at all.

    Entrepreneurs walk along a cliff with a precipice waiting. Their challenge: how creative can I be without falling to the risk of not executing? For wannabe-preneurs to succeed, they need to build in an executive function that’ll allow them to turn dreams into timelines and timelines into reality.

    Productivity is the answer to this challenge. My two favorite thinkers about productivity are David Allen and Leo Babauta.

    Getting Things Done

    David Allen wrote the outstanding book, “,” back in 2001. I was thrilled to find out that he’s written an update to the book, and that an  was just released about a week ago. Allen lays out a simple, easy-to-implement system for getting more done with less stress. If you鸿运彩票新版 want to become a productivity ninja, this is you鸿运彩票新版r white belt training. I highly recommend this book, and David Allen’s approach.


    Leo Babauta writes the , along with a collection of books. They’re about working and living well. His book, “,” is available both for free and for purchase. I started reading the free version and liked it so much that I paid for the full version. It’s a wonderful daily read for entrepreneurs and other people who have a lot of competing inputs.

    Have you鸿运彩票新版 read either of these books? How do you鸿运彩票新版 balance you鸿运彩票新版r creativity, you鸿运彩票新版r responsibilities, and you鸿运彩票新版r business ideas? Leave a comment or let me know on Twitter at !

    When to register you鸿运彩票新版r trademark

    One question I hear from a lot of first-time entrepreneurs is how they should go about registering their trademark. There area  few issues to consider here. First, let me state upfront that I’m not an attorney, not an expert in intellectual property, and I’m not giving anyone legal advice. But I hope that I can clarify the role of trademark in you鸿运彩票新版r company’s startup journey.

    Interbrand's Top 8 brands of 2015

    Interbrand’s Top 8 brands of 2015

    Trademark Basics

    In the United States, trademark is handled by the . A trademark is the mark that helps customers to tell you鸿运彩票新版r product or service from those of you鸿运彩票新版r competitors. It’s an important part of you鸿运彩票新版r company’s brand identity. As with copyright, you鸿运彩票新版 don’t have to actually register you鸿运彩票新版r trademark to start using it. Unlike copyright (which costs $55 to register), it costs between $10,000 and $30,000 to register a Trademark. It’s so expensive because of the time needed to search for previous similar uses of the mark and the attorney’s fees required for the lengthy application process.

    When to register

    The biggest misconception I hear about trademarks is that you鸿运彩票新版 need to go through the extensive registration process before you鸿运彩票新版 begin selling products or services to customers. The truth is that this is NOT a preliminary step, and you鸿运彩票新版 can start doing business without registration.

    I can almost hear the objection: “But what if someone rips off my trademark and starts using my before I can get it registered?” My response is that entrepreneurs shouldn’t rely on a trademark as the only differentiator between their products or services and those of their competitors.

    If the only thing that makes you鸿运彩票新版 better than you鸿运彩票新版r competitors is a logo, then you鸿运彩票新版 don’t deserve to lead you鸿运彩票新版r intended market. Your goal as an entrepreneur is to create as many barriers to entry behind you鸿运彩票新版 as possible. Trademark will eventually be one of these, but you鸿运彩票新版 should also consider how to outperform you鸿运彩票新版r competition on cost, price, service, delivery, availability, quality, and usefulness.

    It’s good to look better than you鸿运彩票新版r competition, but it’s preferable to BE better than you鸿运彩票新版r competition.

    You should plan to register you鸿运彩票新版r trademark eventually. But you鸿运彩票新版r first task as an entrepreneur is to develop a product or service, get it into customers’ hands, start generating revenue, and focus of being the best (or cheapest or fastest) at what you鸿运彩票新版 do. Some of these tasks require money, but they all require hustle. And hustle is both free and rare.

    Get out there and make it happen!

    *Note: Below is a video that explains all the details of Trademarks and registration, straight from the US Patent and Trademark office. They provide the best technical guidance available. The video IS almost 42 minutes long, so strap in if you鸿运彩票新版 plan to watch the entire thing.