Organizing Your Enterprise Identity: Originator or Emulator?


Brand Building:       Part One of Two Establishing Identity

Building identity is the process by which you let people know what your organization does. Identity building is an elementary process: you develop the tools and means to convey a simple message to your market that says This is who we are and what we offer.  Before you can construct this message, though, there are a few questions that you need to ask and answer.

Are you engaged in a new market, or an established one?

Originator or Emulator?
All enterprises can be boiled down to two simple core business ideas: is yours an original or innovative enterprise, or is it an emulating enterprise, using the platform of an established market?
An originator creates a completely new product or service line. For example, the development of the first personal computer or the first service company to market retail products online. The originator enterprise takes on a lot of risk but has the chance to make sizable earnings.
An emulator is a business that uses an established business model. The foundation for this type of business has already been established, and the entrepreneur’s major goal is to find his or her own niche. These types of businesses may not be exciting, but they incur less risk to start up.

The purpose here is to determine the strategy and resources needed for your identity-building. Identity-building for a new product is very different from marketing an established line.
If your organization markets a product or service that is generally recognized and understood, then identity-building is a matter of clearly illustrating the value of what you offer.  If you are selling in an established market, you need to:
• create a marketable identity via advertising, promotion, or word-of-mouth; and,
• demonstrate value.

If your product or service is a new offering, or represents a new category of product or service not previously available, then building identity for your business is a more complicated matter. A situation like this calls for a marketing program that educates the market to the usefulness of the product or service, and demonstrates its value. Being the first in a developing market is a more time-consuming and costly enterprise, but it can yield big dividends. Consider those brands that were among the first in their markets and have now become synonymous with their product area, such as Kleenex™ tissues, Scotch™ tape, and Xerox™ copiers, to name a few.


The Why To of Choosing Self Employment

Choose something that you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. This ancient proverb, which has been attributed to Confucius (although this is debated), reverberates into the 22nd century and was the epiphany for my choice to hire myself at age 28. In a 2009 study by the Pew Research Center, it was reported that

“Self-employed adults are significantly more satisfied with their jobs than other workers. They’re also more likely to work because they want to and not because they need a paycheck.


The Pew study shows that nearly four-in-ten self-employed workers (39%) say they are “completely satisfied” with their jobs, compared with 28% of all wage or salaried employees.

Here are some of the reasons why the self employed are happy.

Work Style and Life Style .                                                                        Live While Working. This is an interesting phrase. When I was in my early teens, my father sent me to work on a farm one summer and I discovered that life and work intertwined daily. Life didn’t stop at 7 AM and then restart again at 5 PM. This epiphany of an idea led me, before age 30, to start my own enterprise and, to then fine-tune this business model into one that gave me a great deal of flexibility. I took my core skills in writing and design and joined them with a newfound ability to sell, forming my own small ad agency in the process. For nearly 40 years, I was able to grow my business, support my family and still have time during the work day to spend with the kids, go running or otherwise participate in my personal interests. Life didn’t just happen on weekends.

Crafting Your Career, Sculpting Your Life                                                 In the modern American workplace, especially in white collar jobs, people seem consumed with work. Many large corporations build attractive work campuses to encourage people to spend longer time at work. Exercise centers, team building outings and off-site activities are all designed to increase your sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself: i.e. belonging to the company. In fact, you already do owe your time to something bigger than yourself and that is LIFE!. Your family, your friends, your life interests should all take precedence, or at least equal measure, with your work life.

Focus on Opportunity, not Security                                                       ‘Get a good job with good benefits and you’ll have no worries.’ Well, that just ain’t true anymore. Job security went out the window years ago and employee benefits are being trimmed. Want job security? Hire yourself, create an enterprise that is determined (for the most part) by your own wits, skills and determination. For those truly interested in self employment, the first task is to retrain your brain. Forget job security and start thinking about opportunity. Is there a way you can use your skill set to make money? You won’t really be losing all that much as various studies show that the self employed and employed earn about the same annual median income.Where it really varies is in the long term, where the self employed tend to out-earn their employed peers. The difference is in the freedom to capitalize and build on opportunity.

Determine What You Want From Your Work                                 Over my many years of speaking in front of businesspeople, and working with smaller businesses and professionals, I have seen how making the decision to be self-employed, for the wrong reason, can come back to haunt you.  There are many ways to be self-employed, successful, and happy.

Find a work-style that works for you, for example:

• You like structure and organization at work, but you don’t want it to be someone else’s idea of structure. Then choosing to start a traditional business, perhaps with employees, may suit your life style.

• You like to have direct contact with customers/clients, and enjoy doing the work or creating the product with as little outside interference as possible. Then, perhaps you should consider being an independent contractor or running a solo enterprise.

• You’re interested in wealth accumulation and retiring early enough to enjoy it. Then you’ll probably want to focus on an enterprise that offers passive income potential, such as selling products which offer an ongoing return.

For many self-employed people, success is not only measured by money brought in, but by freedom of ideas, of creativity, and of time to live life.


Tips For Cultivating A Successful Work At Home Career

Successfully working from home is a skill that requires planning, discipline and practice. For the 1099er, especially someone who has always worked at an office, manufactory, retail store or other brick and mortar location, this new work style may be daunting a first.

In this blog, I’m going to share some tips and advice from someone who has worked this way for more than three decades.

But first, let me tell you a little story.

My Early Day’s in the Netherworld

Way back when, on a September morning some 30+ years ago, I found myself unemployed for the first time since age 13. 

I had launched my little ad agency just two months earlier. The first few weeks in this new enterprise were a strange, netherworld time.  I felt a bit lost and directionless, while simultaneously rushing about trying to set up the new business.  There were business cards and stationery to do, a brochure to create and print (remember this was back before the impact of the digital age–– no internet, websites, social media). There were also all the administrative tasks of setting up a basic enterprise: tax ID, business banking account, mercantile licenses, etc.

It was also the summer and my new life had not yet impacted me. The coming of summer in the colder climes of the northeast always brought with it a sense of relaxation, so the impact of going solo had not yet hit me. I was getting free lance work from my former career as a magazine features writer, and had landed a plumb assignment in June that paid most of my bills for the summer. I kept working at the business, writing free lance and even took a long motorcyle adventure with a friend that August, riding from Pennsylvania to the northern tip of Maine.

Then summer ended, my well-paying free lance article was finished and published and I had completed most of the administrative and operational side of the business. I realized there was a rather large void in my work life. As I had done since college days, I began each day at 6AM and went to my desk. Only this time, there were no articles to write, no deadlines from my superiors, no interviews or appointments.

It was a little bit frightening. 

To fend off the panic, I did something that had always worked to calm my uncertainties: make plans. I methodically worked through a marketing plan, a business and home budget and, most importantly, a structured way to go about selling my services. So, I began making a daily schedule.  If there was no external force (bosses, deadlines, etc.) then I had to impose my own structure.  Days were parsed into segments:

• Early morning was dedicated to developing creative materials, improving my portfolio

• Mid-morning was dedicated to going through business directories and creating a call list

• Mid-day was my exercise and fresh air time

• Afternoons were spent in presentations to prospective clients, making cold calls to get presentation appointments, delivering project materials to various vendors (remember, no web, no ftp) and, doing free lance article interviews

• Evenings were spent doing research or writing the occasional free lance article, or when the  opportunity presented itself, making free presentations.

At first, this self-imposed schedule felt a little like wearing someone else’s coat. It seemed to be something that I just put on for protection, After several weeks, however, this schedule created the structure and discipline I needed to keep me motivated, focused and soon, successfully bringing business in the door.

By the end of November, I had two small clients and some sub-contracting copywriting/design work for another one-person ad agency. The latter was excellent experience for me as my only prior advertising position had been as an intern with a major Philadelphia agency. Here, I got to see a small business person operating within my chosen area. I learned what to do and, more importantly, what NOT to do as a solo enterpriser.

Working From Home: Tips for You

The freedom of working from home can also be a curse. If you will not, or cannot, cultivate a disciplined or structured working style, then this may impact your ultimate success. Here are

three essential areas to address.


Planning, in this 1099er’s opinion, is the key to ultimate success for a work from home business. Here are some examples:

  • Develop a solid marketing plan for your enterprise.
  • Plan your day. Get up at the same hour, have a start time for work. Schedule in some outdoor time–– whether that time is used for exercise, outdoor chores, running errands or just fresh air–– breaking at mid-day helps maintain maximum output.
  • Set daily goals and do your best to meet them.


A plan is all well and good, but one needs the WILL to implement it. If you’re the kind of person who is a disciplined self-starter than this should be fairly easy. If you’re not, here are few tricks to help you acquire the needed work discipline.

  • Learn to master distractions. Cultivate the will to pull yourself back into the task when you find your mind drifting.
  • Set deadlines. Create an imaginary boss that wants a particular task done in a set period of time, then go and do it.
  • Organize distractions. Even if you manage to avoid family or household distractions, there are going to be emails, texts and phone calls. Put these into a time slot each day. So that you’re maximizing output of your income-producing tasks.


“You have a routine, until you don’t”, said a celebrity forced out of a job after many years.

Implementing your daily planning faithfully and building your discipline will result in the development of a work at home routine. No matter how technology continues to change the way we work, a solid work routine can serve you for a lifetime–– as it has done for me.


Ten Check Points To Creating A Blueprint For Business Success

Whether you are a start up or an established enterprise, one of the key components to ongoing success in any business is a marketing blueprint. This is a formalized structure for marketing your enterprise which provides you with a checklist of steps that any enterpriser needs to direct their business.

The blueprint’s objectives are to:

• provide a game plan to guide the process as it moves forward throughout the year; and

• provide a reference against which you can measure the progress of the plan.

Here are ten essential steps to consider in drawing up your blueprint for success.

1. Define your objectives before you begin.  How far and/or how fast do you want your enterprise to grow?  In what direction do you want it to grow?  Who do you want as customers?  Can you penetrate the most profitable markets?

2. Do your homework.  Figure out who your customer is, where he/she can be reached with the least amount of expense.  Developing a good customer profile will define both the media you use and the message you create.

3. Make sure your product/service is ready to sell.  When you are sure that your product/service is valuable to customers, the next step is to make sure that it can be replicated or repeated in a relatively seamless fashion.

4. Adopt the correct attitude. Understand, and accept the risk. “The nature of business is risk” a seasoned veteran and successful entrepreneur once told me.  Like the stock market, you are seeking greater yields in exchange for a certain degree of risk.
In any enterprise there are two overarching objectives that must be kept in mind and that is– to generate opportunities and remain profitable.

As you begin to consider what message to bring to market about your products or services, you should first consider the following factors:

5. Define your identity.  Is your product or service recognizable? Does it have an established brand identity? The answer to this question will affect your strategy.

6. Cultivate an Image.  Is your product/service viewed in a positive light within its chosen markets? Are you satisfied with your company’s image? Would you like to change or enhance it?

7. Select your market position. Where does your product/service stand in regard to its competition? How are the other products/services in your market viewed by customers and prospects? What your competition is, says, and does relates to your positioning strategy.

8. Target each market segment.  You should also be evaluating your chosen market(s) for those niches that offer the greatest opportunity for the least amount of advertising/promotion expenditure. In most cases, a mature market segment that understands what your product/service is and does, may be the best place to start if you have a smaller budget. Within the agreed-upon target markets, select a focus area to begin the development process. This means matching up one or more of your enterprise’s line of products or services with likely prospects within the target markets. For example, a company that makes custom displays and exhibits might choose to target organizations that are celebrating a centennial (or other significant anniversary), and make them aware of its permanent and semi-permanent historical displays. In this case, the company is taking a focus area and matching it with an identifiable market opportunity.

9. Create your marketing support campaign. Many business development plans require the creation of marketing communication and advertising materials to support the deployment of the program. A website brochure(s), social media, email and direct mail blasts, print advertisements, radio spots, as well as social media, website marketing and blogs. Should we moved in you blueprint, based on need and budget. The same factors that helped to formulate your marketing should also be considered when developing advertising and sales-aid materials.

10. Follow-through matters.  On a quarterly basis you should do the following:
• evaluate protegess toward objectives
• adjust marketing program, where needed
• review profitability of sales and adjust accordingly
• evaluate operating and marketing costs, adjust accordingly
• look for new opportunities

No matter how good your blueprint is, poor or irregular implementation will increase the risk of failure. If nothing else, the Business Development process provides the tools to lay a track for your enterprise to follow. Choosing to follow that track to your dreams is a measure of your organization’s ability to rise to a challenge, as well as its commitment to success.




Self Employment Conditioning: Rewire Your View Of Work

Getting a job has been so culturally conditioned in our psyches that it’s almost inconceivable to think about being self-employed. Think I’m wrong? Exaggerating?

Consider your friends and family. How many are self-employed? Now, think about your high school or college classmates. How many chose to work for themselves?

If you are like most of us, you will come up with only a handful of individuals. Why? Because self-employment was not typically presented as an option for a working life in the last 50 years.  Now, it’s satisfying to see that colleges and universities are starting schools of entrepreneurial studies and at least giving students some insight into another viable, occupational alternative. 

To prepare you for the transition from employment to self-employment, there are a few key changes you will have to make in your thinking and outlook.

Understanding Opportunity. 

For many in the working market, or about to enter the market, opportunity is defined as security. The aim of many of these people is job security, or at least the promise of a stable work environment and a regular paycheck. This really isn’t opportunity; it’s a situation. In a more vintage version of a job description, it was said that one was looking for a situation, with the implication that you want to settle into your job/situation: one that will sustain you for years to come. Then, there is self-employment. When you are self-employed, you are driven by the opportunity, not the situation (think America, Land of Opportunity). Your “situation” is the enterprise that you create to capitalize on opportunity. Security is not the sole objective of creating an enterprise, but can be the by-product of pursuing that opportunity.


In order to recognize and capitalize on opportunity, you need to first retrain your brain. Stop thinking like an employee and focus like an enterpriser.  When you see an opportunity, figure-out how to marry this chance with your talents, resources and products. Our conditioning – especially for those born and raised in the years since 1945 – has programmed us to avoid free thinking when it comes to careers, occupations or employment. For many of us, our collective experience in preparing for working life— from parents, elders, educators, counselors— has been to focus on obtaining a situation within a large organization. Corporations, governments, health-care institutions and similar organizations have been the suggested end points for young people seeking employment for as far back as I can remember.

View Yourself and Your World in a New Way 

As mentioned above, a large part of the transition to self-employment involves changing those neural pathways that were cut over decades. First, you  must learn to think like an entrepreneur, or perhaps a better word might be enterpriser. By this term, I refer to someone who views work as a series of opportunities. An enterpriser can still have a career— that is, working in one profession for a lifetime. The difference is that this career will be punctuated by a series of opportunities.

Launching a new enterprise and hiring yourself for the first time is a daunting task. However, if you go into this task well-prepared, the angst and anxiety of the unknown can be minimized. Here are a few things that you can do to help you reduce the stress of converting from traditional employment to self-employment.

Know Your Business. 

Be sure to do your market research and get a clear picture of what you can expect. For example:

  • If you’re launching a product/service in an established market, then the task of introducing your brand may be easier and quicker to start earning.
  • If you’re entering a mature market that has a crowded marketplace, expect that it may take time to break through and begin earning.
  • If you’re introducing a new product/service, or even a new approach to a traditional product/service, you will have to educate prospective customers/clients before you can sell to them. This takes time.

Get Frames of Reference. 

Talk to business owners and managers who operate enterprises similar to yours. Find out how long it took them to succeed. Ask about problems/issues that they encountered. If you have realistic examples to draw upon, you will have realistic expectations for your enterprise.

Going Solo: Five Essential Jobs To Learn For Success

In the first article in this series, I talked about five tips to help your business take off and they all begin with YOU.

So, too, for the established enterprise and in particular, for one person operations, or solopreneurs. I spent more than three decades as a solo provider of marketing and advertising services and there’s one thing that is applicable to most solo operations and that is, YOUR ABILITY TO MULTI-TASK.

I’m speaking about more than just wearing different hats. In today’s warp-speed business environment, you will have to do several things and do them very well and in a timely manner.

Let’s do an overview of these five essential jobs;

1. Primary Source of Your Core Business– Whether you are a free lance designer, independent sales rep, solo professional practitioner, interior designer or handyman, you must keep you core skills up-to-date and efficient. It’s easy to get lost in the mechanicals of launching and running a profitable business. Just don’t forgot what got you there. We witness this mistake regularly when large corporations diversify too far and pay less attention to innovation and quality control in the core offerings. Remember, as a solo enterpriser, your skills are the “products” that your “factory” makes and they have to be consistently outstanding.

2. Marketing Manager – Creating leads is essential. Whether you use social media, email blasts, traditional print or broadcast advertising, it’s essential that you –– as  the solo enterpriser–– learn to understand your medium(s) of choice and how to create attractive content. Learn how to write persuasive copy for your posts, ads and videos. The age of DIY marketing is here and there is no need to be shy about doing your own video post, or writing an ad for your business.  Study and learn: Check out what other small businesses are doing, use their work as a template or guide, and then craft your own messages.

3. Lead Sales Person – No matter how great your solo services are, there is no  business or professional practice without sales. In my experience as a self employment and business consultant, I found that this is one area with which many solos struggle. It’s going  to be your job to take the leads you get from marketing and convert them to sales.For a lot of people, the thought of direct sales if terrifying. Take heart, there are ways to make the process easier. For example:

• Arrange to showcase your services by giving an educational seminar.

• Make it clear to your prospect that you would like to give a formal presentation. The  structure makes some people feel more confident.

• If you’re more of a personality-centric sales person, than presenting over lunch, golf or other social function may better suit you.

     In short, choose your battlefield and you will be more confident in your sales efforts.

4. Operations Officer & Logistics Manager   –  For  all intents and purposes, the principle in a solo enterprise of also the Chief Operations Officer. If yours is a service enterprise, then the focus of your efforts is going to be on the following:

• Follow sales patterns, growth and non-growth periods and making adjustments.

• Keep an eye on the competition. Make sure you’re positioned competitively in terms  of offering optimal value for dollars spent. This means checking your pricing and service offerings against the competition on a regular basis.

• Customer satisfaction. There is a lot “satisfaction surveying” going on every where we go today. Little of it, from my experience seems, to generate much in the way of service. Those organizations who make outstanding service a part of their culture, do it all day, every day.

5. Finance Manager – Being a solopreneur also means learning a thing or two about business finance. I cannot provide you with a comprehensive course in business accounting  in this blog, but here is some advice I can give as a guy who made it through more than 37  years operating completely solo.

• Understand what “Cash Flow” means and make sure to check it daily, really twice daily. That it is to say, your need to have the right amount of money in the right places at the right times.

• Establish relations with a bank, preferably a local or regional one in which the personnel changes will likely be fewer. Let this person get to know you and your business. When the time is right, get an unsecured (or secured, if necessary) for your business. You’re most likely going to need it.

• Stay up with collections. I know first hand that it’s very hard to ask a good client for money that it owed you, but you must develop a way to handle this.

 So, you’re probably thinking right now, this is great, but how do I acquire all this knowledge? Well, some of it might come from education or previous experience. However, if you don’t have  schooling in marketing, sales, logistics and accounting , or your lacking experience in these areas, then it comes down to plain ‘ole on the job learning.

  I guess the latter adds another job to functions to learn as a solo enterpriser.


Five Tips to Help Your Enterprise Take Off and They Begin With You

Lead, Follow or Get Out Of The Way, Part One of Two

There are many reasons why some new enterprises thrive while others suffocate in the first couple of years. Of course, there are the often-cited, concrete reasons for failure such as poor capitalization, higher then anticipated development or production costs or, in the case of independent contractors, lack of reliable support staff.

However, there five less tangible elements that can capsize your business ship in a hurry. Interestingly, they all focus on YOU.

#1. Have YOU done your due diligence?

By this I’m talking about solid market research.  If you haven’t the funds to hire professional research specialist(s), then do your research at a grass roots level by obtaining frames of references and basic market information. Questions that you need to answer include:

  • Are similar enterprises in my markets doing well?
  • Is this an established or mature market? 
  • Are there competitors? If so, is there room for more competition? Is there room for my enterprise to grow?
  • Can you compete with the market leaders?
  • If there are no competitors, why? Is there a reason that no other enterprise is in this market?

#2. Advantage: You?

When you’re doing your due diligence on the competition in your markets, also ascertain if your enterprise will have any specific advantage(s), by asking the following questions:

  • Does your product or service have a specific advantage over the competition?
  • If so, what is the perceived value (of those in the market) about your advantage?
  • Is there anything truly new or unique about the core idea of your enterprise?
  • If you are selling your services, is there something special or extraordinary about you, your skill set, or your personality?

#3. Have YOU honestly considered inherent disadvantages?

While you are assessing the advantages of your enterprise, you will also need to think about its disadvantages. This is just as essential in assessing the potential success/failure of your enterprise. Factors to consider include:

  • Is there so much competition in your chosen markets that it reduces the earning opportunity?
  • Is the market so crowded that trying to stand out or be recognized will be a costly effort with little chance of return on investment?
  • Is the competition too strong? Will your business be up against major players, with deep pockets that control a sizable portion of the market?
  • Are you launching an original product/service or a variation of an existing offering that requires client/consumer education?
  • Are there competitive disadvantages in the products/services you’re offering?
  • Is there a price disadvantage or perceived lack of value for your product or service?

Part of the picture with several of these considerations is the money factor. If you are competing in a crowded marketplace, or a market that is dominated by some big players or a virgin market, it is likely that you will need to be well capitalized.

#4. Are YOU and YOUR Skills, Attitudes & Personality a Threat To Your Business?

As a newcomer to your chosen market, an enterprise that lacks unique features, has uncompetitive pricing, or delivers poor quality is not likely to survive. One of the hardest elements to isolate in assessing the potential success of a start up or young enterprise is the Founder Factor.  That is: You may have founded the enterprise but are you truly the right person to be running it?

Consider the following examples:                                                                                          • Are you a skilled and experienced manager? Would your enterprise be better off with someone who can manage operations and people?

• If you’re going to be responsible for sales on an ongoing basis, such as is the case in solo enterprises, do you have the temperament, speaking abilities, confidence and tenacity to handle this vital task?

• If you’re not a good money manager with your personal finances, it’s likely that you’ll be the same with your business. Acknowledge this limitation at the outset and hire a financial officer. If you’re business lacks the funding or is too small for a full time financial officer, retain an accountant.

#5. Lead, Follow or Get Out Of The Way

This phrase from an old Chrysler/Dodge ad, and spoken by famed CEO Lee Iacocca, has become a popular catch-all for many things. I find it truly resonates for those of us who are starting, have started or are running our own enterprises.

The idea, design, vision, etc. may have come from us, but are we the best ones to grow it? The answers to this vary with the individual entrepreneur.

If launching your business into the stratosphere of earnings and market dominance, then you should consider those that can get you there.

However, if you’re in a small enterprise and your driving goal is to provide a service or product that represents YOU, then you’re going to want to retain control.

More on this in Part Two of Lead, Follow or Get Out Of The Way, posting on October 10, 2018.

Building Your Business Identity: The Five Ws of Customer Perception

As you formulate your new enterprise, you should be concerned about creating the right identity for the business. Here’s a handy cheat sheet: use the old reporter’s rule of the 5 W’s: 

Who?  What does the market see when it see you or your business?

What? Do you explain well what your enterprise offers? Do you have a clear and unique identity for your offerings?

Where?  What is your market position relative to the competition?

When?  How do want your potential customers to view your products/services in terms of presence in the market? Do you want to tout that your offering are new and unique, or do you wish to play down the fact that you’re a new player?

Why? Have you isolated the reasons why your prospective customers should buy your products or services?

The Balance of Customer Needs With Customer Wants

The concept of building a business identity is inextricably tied to the practice of addressing both the needs and wants of the marketplace. We wear a particular brand of pants because they fit in with our image of ourselves, and our lifestyle. The same can be said for the cars we drive, the homes we live in, the foods we eat, the beverages we drink. In all these cases, it is the wants side of the marketing formula that drives the initial purchase. However, many a product or service has successfully enticed a customer to make an initial purchase, but failed in its attempt to obtain a repeat buyer, or to maintain an ongoing practice relationship. Why?  Because the product or service successfully addressed the wants of the customer, but failed to deliver on the needs.

Give the customer what they want and they’ll let you sell them what they need…. So goes the old adage.

Every successful enterpriser needs to understand the balance between these integral elements. Consider these points:

If NEED alone prompted purchases, then people would just buy basic automobiles. No luxury brand. No high performance cars. Just basic transportation to go from point A to point B.  Similarly, clothing would simply be utilitarian in nature. Function would definitely trump fashion in goods and services, if the WANT side of the buying formula was left out.

It is the WANT that makes the economy go, and that creates wealth and establishes brands and customer loyalty.

Consider This Example…

Not so long ago, a beverage brand spent millions to establish itself in the marketplace. The product was not particularly flavorful, but what it lacked in taste, it made up for in advertising alchemy. The company launched one of the most successful brand building campaigns in advertising history and, within two years, you could find this beverage in clubs and restaurants everywhere. Clever advertising made it a popular choice at parties and picnics, as well as other venues. It seemed that, overnight, the brand had penetrated the market to nearly incredible levels. Yet, within three years, the brand was on the downslide, and within five years, you were hard pressed to find a bottle of this product anywhere. So, what went wrong?  Nothing, really. The market just corrected itself. The product was not particularly good to begin with, and so it failed to address the basic needs of the customer for a good-tasting, satisfying beverage. 

The preceding story illustrates how the wants/needs equation plays into the building of a successful brand. The brands that endure are those that blend savvy marketing with solid value. 

Doing your marketing homework up front will save substantial amounts of money and effort in the long run. Find a need and fill it is still the mantra of good marketing, but creating a strong brand for this need-filler will lead to success. Two things you should do include:

Develop a Customer Profile or Avatar – This is a person or persons who typify the type if client/customer/buyer of your business offerings. If you’re selling consumer products, find out where your customers work, where they live, their typical income and what they buy. If you selling to other businesses, you’ll want to identify the correct  person/job title in your target market and then find out what these prospects look for in the products/services you provide.

Assess Your Market Position – This process is typically defined as being an effort to influence customer perception of a product/service brand relative to the perception of competing products or services. The goal of positioning is to situate your enterprise offerings (or brand) in a clear, unique and advantageous position in the perception of your prospective buyers. 

To accomplish this you should do the following:

A) look at the competition, see how they are perceived relative to their market.

B) analyze the factors that affect positioning: quality, price, experience, reliability, etc. 

C) Looking at the competition in your target market,  where does your enterprise fit (or could fit, when launched)? Do your offerings/pricing put you in the premium category, a value brand or middle tier?

 I understand that market position is relative and their are many factors that define it. However, it’s important early on in your enterprise to try and position your enterprise where others will see

Focus on Niche Marketing. 

Once you have defined your market(s), it’s essential that you find a niche for your enterprise. Put simply, niche marketing is all about value and uniqueness. You want to offer products/services that no one else is offering, or to offer established products/services in a new and better way. In addition, take this a step further by developing a secondary or tertiary niche, which will provide you with an even better chance of ongoing success. Here is a hypothetical example:

An accounting practice with five CPAs is looking to specialize, so it launches a niche marketing program, including:

  • Niche 1 – specializing in smaller enterprises 
  • Niche 2 – further specializing in smaller commercial enterprises
  • Niche 3 – specializing even further by offering services tailored to the accounting needs of smaller insurance brokerages and real estate brokerage

If you perform your due diligence when developing an identity for your new enterprise, you will be adding an important component to your blueprint for success

Tips: The Four O’s In A Successful Start Up

Many of us like to have our business advice compacted into easily remembered information nuggets. You know, things like The Five Rules of …. , Ten Ways To Improve Profits… etc. So, here is one more to add to your list: THE FOUR Os.

When contemplating a start up, or in making market plans for an existing enterprise, there are four essential ingredients in structuring the marketing of products or services. These elements are common to most successful marketing strategies.

And they are neatly packaged into memorable nuggets as they all begin with the letter O.


Business ideas often begin with an observation. Some might also call it inspiration. In fact, it’s the simple act of noticing a need that is being filled or not being filled. Once you observe this need, it’s important to look around, investigate, speak with those in the same area to determine the specifics of the need.

Example: In the early 1950s, the McDonald brothers of San Bernardino CA observed a need for a no frills, high quality/low cost source for hamburgers and were inspired to create a highly efficient system to deliver such product quickly, thus pioneering the fast food concept.



Once you have identified a market need via observation, you must then assess the scope of the opportunity. This means that you need to perform your due diligence on the potential of your observed need to be sufficiently successful to support operations and produce a profit. You must research the potential size of the opportunity to make sure that it’s success is sustainable into the future.

Example: Entrepreneurial salesman Ray Kroc observed the McDonald Brothers’ marketing phenomenon and recognized the enormous opportunity inherent in franchising this idea. We all know the rest of the story.

Example: Or perhaps I should call this Examples, as I’m talking about the numerous .com enterprises launched in the 1990s and early 2000s. Many of these were inspired ideas that attracted investors aplenty. Many also crashed and burned. A famous example is that of an online grocery store (I’ll omit the name of this venture) with enormous selection, high quality products and low prices–– plus your order was delivered to your doorstep! Sounds great now, right, and there are numerous versions of this idea floating around today, not even including Amazon, which is similar in basic concept.

The lesson of these two OPPORTUNITY examples is in the old adage: Pioneers get slaughtered, settlers flourish.

Open Mindedness

This is another way of saying “eyes wide open” when venturing into a start up. The lessons of being a pioneer in your niche needs to considered. True, some pioneers make millions: Jobs, Gates, Musk, Edison, Ford, Kroc, but there are hordes of truly inspired enterprisers who had great ideas that either didn’t come to fruition or failed to thrive.

We enterprisers tend to fall in love with our business visions–– starry-eyed, we sometimes only see the positive and overlook or minimize the negatives.

To be successful, you must perform a a truly objective risk analysis and understand that all business is risk. You must be ready to walk away or consider a new configuration if the facts point to increased risk of failure.

Example: There are too many to single out any one example here. I suggest you search the topic: business startups that failed and why.


The last “O” in this list, obtainability, refers to the potential of your enterprising idea to be brought to life. If you’ve made it through the first three Os and you’re still optimistic about the viability of your start up, the next question is focused more on you, now that you think the business idea sound and sustainable.

Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Do I have the skills to make this enterprise work?
  • Do I have sufficient capital to launch and if I don’t, can I raise it?
  • Do I have the temperament, attitude and personality to take risks?
  • Will my current life situation and status support an entrepreneurial venture?

Example: Ted (last name removed for privacy) came to me for consultation about two years ago. He had a been a strategic analyst but couldn’t stand the big corporation culture. He had an idea to start a strategic marketing consulting firm for smaller businesses. He failed miserably and here’s why:

  • His OBSERVATION of smaller businesses using such a service was faulty and his due diligence inadequate. 
  • Ted failed to research the scope of OPPORTUNITY for this service. Many small businesses practice “grass roots” marketing and don’t utilize tools such as strategic and/or market analytics. Ted’s lack of OPEN MINDEDNESS let him mistakenly see a “market niche” for these services. He was blinded to the fact that there was an “opening” in this market because very few businesses in this segment were buying such services.
  • Lastly, Ted also failed to honestly asses whether he had the means to OBTAIN this business. He did not. He had little experience with smaller businesses, lacked tenacity and life experience to wade into this market, and then make adjustments.

If you’re out there getting ready to launch a startup, or you’re in the early days of your first enterprise, remember it’s not about U. Remember your Os.

Growing and Shaping Your Work Life.