Ideation

“The purpose of thinking is to let the ideas die instead of us dying.”

― Alfred North Whitehead

This is perfectly true only if you don’t account for people’s tendency to overdo it.

A lot of us – myself included – tend to overthink, transforming idea-slaughtering into some kind of odd hobby.

While eliminating stupid ideas is fine, and playing with thoughts can be a good mental exercise, it becomes counterproductive if it hinders you in bringing ideas to life. It can slow you down, it can even immobilize you.

It’s a mind-trap you can escape from, only if you are smart enough to understand that doing nothing is far worse than fruiting bad ideas.

Ideas need to be turned into actions!

Because only actions have the power to build a good life.

The Plan

Business is not your life.
It’s just a piece of your life, a good way to generate value in your lifetime.

You won’t be able to make a good plan for your business if it’s not aligned with the plan of your life.

But you can’t plan your life, if you don’t know what you want to accomplish by the end of your life.

If you don’t know what you want to accomplish by the end of your life, you can’t make a long-term plan.

If you don’t have a long-term plan, you can’t make a five-year plan.

If you don’t have a five-year plan, you can’t plan the year.

If you can’t plan the year, you can’t plan the month.

If you can’t plan the month, you can’t plan the week.

If you can’t plan the week, you can’t plan the day.

If you don’t plan the day, you’ll wander aimlessly, confused and stressed.

If you wake up every morning and don’t have a plan, you can only react, not build.

If you can’t build every day towards your goals, you’ll waste the week.

If you waste the weeks, you waste the months.

If you waste the months, you waste the years.

If you waste the years, you waste your life.

If you waste your life, you will die in regret.

Regret without a second chance is hell.

Without a plan, you will go to hell.

Before You Start

Waiting for something special to happen before you start?

The perfect plan, the perfect setup, the perfect logo, the perfect constellation alignment? Are you constantly delaying actions, procrastinating, finding other priorities?  How many things did you put on your “need this to start” list?

Are you telling yourself nice stories to support all the above?

Congratulations! You are one of the billions who do the same every day. And you are going towards a life full of regrets, depression and suffering.

But here is what you need to understand: you can’t just stand there and expect things to get better on their own. You can’t expect others to come drag you out of your misery. You need to move away from suffering and take action in order to initiate change. Action ends suffering!

So, what’s holding you back? Why are you building all those obstacles to block your start?
Why can people like Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates start in a garage and you can’t?

It’s fear. Because if you wouldn’t have been afraid of it, you would have done it already.
And this is actually good.

Because here is the thing: being fearless is stupid – dangerous even – and choosing stuff you’re not afraid of, is lazy and boring. None of those will get you from one of the billions to one of the greats.

It’s overcoming fear what separates the ones from the others.

The bigger the fear, the greater the chance.

Platforms

Do you have something valuable to say but your message doesn’t get through? It’s because most people are already in some conversation, therefore you won’t get their attention.

Imagine yourself in the middle of a huge crowd. A sea of people talking, arguing, some even screaming. Do you want to be heard? Do you want people to pay attention to your valuable message? Do you want your message to spread?

Then, you better start talking.

At first, no-one will listen. No need to panic and start yelling but if you want some attention, you should have a clear and powerful voice. You should talk with passion.

Passion is very powerful. It has energy. This special energy will fuel your actions,  improve your talk and will make people turn heads.

If your message is interesting some will start eavesdropping and even stop their own conversation to be able to hear you. At first the ones closer to you.

For a while you need to be very consistent… and insistent. It’s the only way to show you mean it.
Some time will pass…

You have been talking for a while now. Your voice had some good training. It is clear, powerful, confident, full of passion. You can’t be ignored. Not because you have the loudest voice, but because others turned towards you, listening.

The fact that others listen to you will generate a mix of frustration and curiosity – not the ideal feeling you want to convey, but at first useful if it gets you more attention. They first have to listen in order to understand what you are saying.

If you keep going, this will start to spread. Not alone your message… at first, but also the intriguing fact that others are listening to you. People care a lot about social proof.

If you are good, the people closer to you will start pointing in your direction. Spread your message even, repeat it for the ones who are not close enough to hear it directly. Your message might even get viral.

If you are really good, someone will help you climb on some object so that more people can hear you. It might be just a chair or a table, but no mater how small, it will be your first platform. Blogs are platforms too.

If you continue to be great and deliver value, more and more people will want to hear your message. At some point, table-like platforms will reach their limits.

Some listeners further away might even dislike your platform and gesticulate their feelings of frustration demanding the improvement of your reach.

“I hate Facebook! I like Instagram. Why doesn’t She use LinkedIn?” they say.

If you are fantastic, you will find yourself pushed higher and higher so that you can reach more and more people. It might be a podium, a big stage even. Just higher and bigger platforms amplifying your voice, putting spotlights on you.

At this level you will have learned all the platforms and start using them accordingly to your audience. Social media, podcasts, TV shows, whatever it takes. A book is a platform too, you know?

Time will pass again.

You are now a leader in your industry and your point of view is highly appreciated – surprisingly, even on totally unrelated topics.

You have influenced your generation. How amazing is that considering you just started talking with passion in the middle of a crowd not so long ago?

Your message has become the work of your life. You have changed lives.

At some point you will have to ask yourself if all this will die with you or if your work has enough value for the generations to come. True value, not ego!

If the latter is true, it will become your duty to teach, to mentor, to reach in time, to touch the next generation To build the ultimate platform. A platform on which other peoples platforms are built.

A platform that builds a better future for all.

Safe to click

A way to change the world

As a hole, people are curious creatures but at individual level you will often encounter a lot of resistance towards the new.

Take links for example: you usually don’t click them if you’re not clear about where they’ll take you.

It’s the reason why most web designers will stick to the rules and place your logo in the top left corner, will have the menu top right and will populate it in a classic manner: About, Services, Products, Contact even in this exact order.

The same will be true if you are naming your products or your book. You will get more engagement if, instead of using abstract notions, your titles just spell it out and everyone is clear about the subject.

That is, if you are not a celebrity in your space, like Seth Godin is in marketing. He can get away with book titles like “Purple Cow” and “Meatball Sundae” or with an unusual blog format.

Why? How? He’s set expectations upfront. His reputation, his other good books, and his bold actions, like shipping “Purple Cow” in a milk Carton (story here: https://seths.blog/2007/03/purple_cow_redu/) have already primed the buyers.

Even so, he didn’t risk colliding with people’s reluctance to new stuff. He distributed the first batch for free (except shipping costs), and had a small subtitle saying: “Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”… aka he spelled it out.

Do you see what’s going on?

You need to be remarkable to stand out from the crowd but you also need to overcome resistance to the new.

Seth’s “Purple Cow” is great example but just look around and you’ll find a lot more. Take Musk’s Tesla: he overcame resistance with a remarkable super fast electric sports car.

It changed the world.

Is your product remarkable and “safe to click”?

Choice

Working towards a potential future, one that we imagine, is what separates us from animals.
 
Animals react – we are able to anticipate and act with intention.
 
It is this super-power that enabled our evolution, and it is the only power that can save us from destroying our future.
 
Be health conscious now and you will have a long healthy life.
Grow a brand now and you will develop a future-proof business.
Protect the environment now to save the planet for our children.
 
It’s not easy.
 
We are going to feel the pain of discipline by doing the right things now,
or we are going to feel the pain of regret later, when it might be too late.
 
It’s a choice.

Design Doctor

If you find yourself telling your doctor what to do, you either need to change the doctor or your attitude.
 
So, if you know more than your doctor about the illness, you should find a more specialized one or become one yourself.
 
If you’re not that good but still trying to tell others what to do, like micromanaging everyone, you are again in need of a specialist. A psychotherapist or a good coach.
 
Keep that example in mind the next time you as a business owner are visiting a designer.

Design your business

Think of design as intention.
 
‘By design’ we say when something was purposefully crafted and didn’t happen by chance. It’s a way to predict results and to mitigate risks. We design the world around us to be able to control it and generate purpose.

Design is intention. It has purpose.

So should the looks and feels of your business be.

Designing the customer touchpoints of your business should never be left to chance. How you show up is a statement! So is the lack of design. It proves the lack of intention, purpose and knowledge.

If you didn’t bother to get at least a decent logo, business cards and a website, your statement is “I don’t give a fuck”.

Then why should I? If you don’t care about your business, how can I trust you to take care of mine?

Future-Proof Business

Teaching the principles of Future-Proof Businesses in the middle of a global pandemic is like describing the most delicious, decadent chocolate cake recipe to drooling hunger strikers.

But the timing isn’t really wrong – I’d bet you are paying attention now. More than ever, actually. Because if your business is in lockdown, almost dead, craving for the tiniest crumb… of revenue,  you probably have abundant time for self-reflection and for finding out what you could have done better and how to avoid it for the future.

So if you are stubborn enough to stay in business even in the strangest times, here’s a concise list of the ingredients you will need for the cake… I mean Future-Proof Business:

Know your WHY!

Your WHY is the foundation for everything else. It’s your motivation, your energy and the source for all your core values. It needs to be so high that everyone can see what you stand for and so sturdy that no calamity could touch it. A clear WHY gives you the choice to select and adapt your HOW. And there isn’t really a better way to survive and be future-proof than adapting and evolving.
Look for Simon Sinek if you want to seriously drill this into your head. He wrote the book on the subject and delivered the most famous Ted-talk ever.

Build a Brand!

It should be a no-brainer, but just in case, let me tell you how the cookie crumbles. A brand represents the sum of people’s perception of a company’s behavior, promises, looks and services/products.

It’s about their feelings and your reputation.

You have to make sure it’s coherent and reflects your core values – see how you already need your WHY? The Brand – if properly constructed – is there to remind everyone what you stand for. It’s how you are perceived by the world. Do it right and you will have followers. Stay consistent and you will have support even when the world seems to turn upside-down.
How to build a brand is a huge topic and you shouldn’t leave it to chance, but rather seek help or at least teach yourself. Turning vision into strategy is an art. Stick around and I promise I will drill the subject in your head.
Nevertheless, a remarkable brand is a must for any future-proof business.

Become a leader and develop a personal brand!

I really can’t separate these two because together they form a strong team and a big difference in how tall you stand in the darkest times. It’s also not the “paid influencer that sells you crap” kind of personal brand.
I mean the real deal leadership, trustworthy people, that special breed people like and look up to. The ones that seem to be able to make anything happen. I’m sure you know a few, but here is a short selection of the finest: Tony Robbins, Richard Bronson, Elon Musk. They have proven consistently what they stand for, what they are capable of.
I don’t say you have to build rockets and go to Mars to be a leader. You can be a pillar of your community, a rock in the waves for your team, or stand out like a shining beacon in the sadness of mediocrity.
I argue that carrying for others and consistently showing up, earns trust. The kind of trust that gives leader-owned businesses an edge over their competition, even when the economy shivers. You buy from people you trust, right?

Diversify!

As in ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Here is where the WHY comes again to save your ass. Now enough about anatomy. Let’s better use a global pandemic lockdown example.

If your WHY is high and clear enough – something like ‘delivering tasty food to the world’ – you get a lot of flexibility to play with. So if you start this outstanding mission by opening a small pizza shop in your neighborhood – and have to close doors because of some new Corona 5.3 type of virus – having this overarching WHY, gives you the flexibility to go online, to cater, to deliver coffee every morning, to make birthday-cakes if you feel like it, or to invent some new trend-setting food, like the Croissant-Muffins called Crussins. And if you are really committed, you could make the Star Trek Replicator become a reality and save humanity from hunger too. Because your promise is ‘delivering tasty food to the world’ not ‘making pizza for my neighborhood’. If you are just the pizza-shop down the corner, you’ll get raised eyebrows if you suddenly deliver chocolate cakes.

Here is a tip on how to diversify: look for the kill-switches of your current business – simulate scenarios, be a pessimist for a while – and come up with ideas that don’t have the same kill-switch. Branch out, but be coherent with your WHY, your message, your brand, your reputation and people will buy goodies from you even if they don’t have mozzarella and pepperoni topping.

Predict the future!

I know crystal globes don’t work, that’s a mutant ability… duh! One that you need to evolve and take control of. But some future tendencies don’t even require mutant powers. I mean, anyone can foresee how electric cars will change the world. Then, you should always observe and quantify trends. Not like you have to be trendy all the time if your business doesn’t require it, but rather make out the direction, triangulating trends if you’re a geek. What do those trends have in common? Where could that lead us? What will they change? Who will be affected?
You don’t want to miss the next disrupting technology like the car, the airplane or the internet, for example. Two reasons I give you for this: first, you could miss huge opportunities, and second, your business could be wiped out by new technologies or trends. So, if future-proof is your thing, keep an open eye on the world.

Be able to sustain!

This is a huge topic for me and it’s all about the long-term. You are not the opportunist kind of “make a quick buck”, “hit-and-run”, “after me, the flood” type, I hope. If by any chance, hit the X in the right-top corner, because my wisdom is not for you.

You can look at any action through the lens of sustainability: if you’re not healthy and able to deliver the energy, you can’t sustain your journey, if you’re not a leader, you can’t sustain a team, if you don’t make profit, you won’t sustain anything in the long-run. See how you need to check all the points above if you want to be able to sustain your business? 

But if you spend a deep thought on sustainability, you also have to consider the environment. You can’t call your business future-proof and in no way sustainable if you fuck up the planet and the generations to come! It could be as “small” as improperly discharging waste and thus harming your community, or as big as extracting and selling the limited resources of the planet  – both would count as long-term unsustainable in my book and therefore not clearly future-proof.

And finally…

We’ve covered the main ones but I feel like ranting a bit more on the overall meaning of business. First, do me a favor. If “It’s just business” ever surfaced your lovely mind, please slap your face right now! That is one of the stupidest things to say if you actually care about the future of your business.

Business is made by people for people. Slap yourself again so you don’t forget it.

Because there are three kind of people YOU HAVE TO CARE for, if you ever want to future-proof your business: the people who pay for your services and products, the people on your team, and the people who started the whole endeavor –  I mean you. Care about the people you serve/sell to, and they will care back, help your team grow, and they will help you grow.

As for you, I think it’s obvious: it all starts and ends with you! That’s why you really need to take care of yourself. You need to be a raw model, passionate, healthy, energetic and full of joy. It’s the only way to build a future-proof business.
  
Feel free to hit me with your questions if you think your business isn’t as future-proof as it should and subscribe to my newsletter if you enjoy my fancy way of putting things in perspective. It’s free and the whole package comes with a no-BS-future-proof guarantee.

Positioning Fetish

Stating “The client is always right” is like volunteering for slavery. It’s diminishing.

If that’s your fetish you should visit another kind of site. My fetish is to help YOU be the dominator in your business.

It is a positioning problem. It shows that you desperately chase your clients and that you rely on luck to close a deal. It tells how rare prospects find you attractive, or proves that you are just a commodity. That there are many like you, that the client has a lot of alternatives and that you only survive by competing on price.

This fetish is expensive and not sustainable long term. It eats your soul.

Instead, you could be in a position where YOU are always right. Where the client chases you to solve a problem and where you are the best solution.

For this to happen, you need to figure out the problem you want and can solve for a specific group of clients. How unique and stringent the problem, and also how narrow the group of people confronted with that problem is, will determine your success.

THEY have the problem! You have the solution! If that’s not stupidly clear for everyone, you need to reposition.

When that’s done, you just need to make yourself visible. To reliably show up in all those places where the clients can see you.
And let THEM chase you.

Now, what is that going to do for your pricing? How about your soul?

The voice

So many of you speculate about how to become successful yet fail to fiddle the right questions.
I see it all the time. What microphone to use, how often to post or finding the best hashtags seem to be the main concerns. That’s “putting the cart before horse” definition!

Marketing and gadgets are not responsible for success. You are. Your voice is.

It’s the loud and clear voice you use to talk about the subjects that excite you. It’s about sharing with others the life-changing secrets you uncovered, helping them understand, enriching their lives. Providing value.

If you are not excited, not sure what to talk about or not carrying enough, you are not there yet. You don’t have a voice.

Finding your voice is the toughest part of the journey. It’s also the most important.

But be aware, your voice might be just a whisper at first. A feeling you can’t describe. A shiver so easy to lose and forget while stumbling through a busy life. So easy to ignore.
As if a busy life can justify not having a life. As if understanding oneself is just wasted time. As if the purpose of our existence is insignificant and a lifetime of unhappiness isn’t worth taking the time to bring our true meaning to life. Our purpose.

Yet having a purpose, IS life. It’s a life worth living, worth sharing, worth celebrating. It’s your voice.

A voice that will give you the energy for everything else. For writing books, for posting twenty times a day, for managing ten platforms, for becoming an influencer. Even for public speaking.

That’s a voice worth following!

Then, and only then, wonder about the brand of your microphone.

A simple rule

Long time ago, as a kid I promised myself to never be late. It’s a very simple rule that everyone could and should apply without exception.

Basic rules like this can be very powerful. In fact, everything we know is based on a simple set of rules that evolved and formed a complex universe. Here is how it applied in my case:

The basic rule was to never be late. NEVER! That meant being well organized and planning in advance. That meant acting with intention and eliminating the unexpected as much as possible.

That translated in being responsible and reliable. After a while, everyone around knew they could rely on me. I would never be late on a project, on a meeting or on a date. Consequently, this attracted people that appreciate those values. I think of my beloved other half as a beautiful illustration of this. It also applied to other aspects of my life, from friends to business. It shaped my life.

This is how, when committing even to one simple rule, you can evolve a complex personality, a brand, even a life.

Choose your rules wisely, it works the other way around too.

Positioning against stress

How do you make decisions? And how can positioning fight stress?


We are wired to make decisions by comparing stuff. It’s how our brain works.

Comparing details and finding differences is what we constantly do, sometimes without even noticing. But you will notice tension and stress rising if you fail to find something that will help you make up your mind.


Similarly, finding yourself in front of too many choices, is confusing and stressful. Mainly because, if nothing stands out, you’ll have way too many details to compare before reaching a conclusion.

For that reason, behavioral scientist and smart marketers alike will advise limiting price options to three while making the middle one stand out. It satisfies decision-making (and ego), while providing the obvious and easy choice. It’s relaxing and rewarding.


Now think about your business. Order an audit if you are biased. How many options do your customers have? Are you one of many, offering the same or similar product? Can you differentiate yourself from competition? Are you clearly communicating those differences?

In other words, are you making it easy for your customer to choose?


The set of actions that will allow customers to tell at a glance that you are the obvious choice, is called positioning.

Yes, it’s not only a buzzword, it’s a great success insuring strategy. And, along financial benefits for your business, it will also ease your customers’ decision-making.

One way or the other, positioning is a fantastic way to reduce stress.

Setting price expectations

If you find yourself in a very competitive market, without setting yourself apart from others, you will rather sooner than later find that your only leverage is to compete on price. That is fine if you do it on purpose.

But here is how I find most of my clients.

Margins are low to start with. That is a self-regulating mechanism in a crowded niche. It’s normal.

To counter the small margins, you have to sell more items. And how do you sell more if you don’t differentiate yourself from competition? Make a special offer. You choose some products and go as low as possible. Sometimes even lower.

But that is unsustainable long term. You only manage short bursts from time to time. You hope, you can win the hearts of your customers. But you don’t. You just set another level of expectation. So does your competition.

It’s the perfect procedure to teach customers that lower prices are possible. That’s irreversible.

This has been done so often, that people have learned to hunt for offers. They expect low prices now. And you helped set this low price point.
Congrats! You just earned yourself a name on a price-comparison website.

Why do startups fail

“Eight of out 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months” was the myth spread by Forbes in 2013.

Don’t let this journalistic marble scare you. It’s not that bad. Jet, the real numbers still show you have to do your homework. So lets start right now:

Half of new businesses fail during the first five years, of which 30% in the first two years, … seem to be the accepted rough numbers across multiple institutions and media. For me, that is still a lot of failure waiting to happen. It’s what I want to help you with and what I have done for so many years. It’s what my advisory firm does.

Combining my experience with a lot of research, I compiled the most serious causes that can shatter your chances of success:

1. Lack of Brand Platform and Strategy.

The Brand Platform is where it all starts. It sets the values on which the whole business will operate: why you do it, who’s problems you are going to solve and how you approach everything. Brand building, positioning, value proposition, target audience, corporate identity and communications are all materializations of the Brand Platform. Getting this wrong is like starting in the wrong direction.

As a side effect, and if done right, the Brand Platform can serve as proof of concept because it forces you to know your customers and your market extremely well. Therefore, it significantly reduces the risk of failure.

I’ll only touch briefly on positioning here although it is a huge strategy decision that can lift or bury your business pretty easy.

Positioning is the art of putting yourself in that sweet spot where your product or service is unique enough to largely cut down on competition while still maintaining a niche rich enough to sustain your business. You don’t want to be a commodity fighting for a place in price comparison charts and you don’t want to be so focused that only a handful people will buy your products. In this article I touch a bit on that sweet spot: Competition Audit.

For all the reasons above, you need to settle on your Brand Platform upfront. Unfortunately, too many startups ignore this part completely. It’s the perfect setup for short-term failure.

2. Wrong market evaluation / business model.

Or in other words “Presumption is the mother of all fuck-ups”.

It’s not enough to establish the core values through your Brand Platform and to understand your audience’s needs. You also want to find out if it can sustain your business. Can your customers afford it and is are they willing to buy? It’s a matter of numbers, not suppositions.

There is a lot of other stuff you could get wrong here: number of customers that really need your product, their capabilities, scalability, competition in your niche, pricing of your products and timing just to name the big ones.

Another set of presumptions often made when evaluating the market is about customer acquisition. How easy it is to acquire new customers and how much this action will cost, needs to face the total value the customer is returning.

Technically speaking, that is the CAC/LTV rule (cost of acquiring the customer/lifetime value of customer) and it’s pretty evident: CAC needs to be less than LTV for a profitable business model.

You also wouldn’t want to ignore the time needed to recover the cost of acquiring your customers. Put that against your capital and you already have a better chance to estimate how the few next years will look like.

3. Product problems.

You can make the best market evaluation and identify the best product or service to satisfy the need of your customers, but you also have to deliver. If your product doesn’t meet the needs of your customers, if it is faulty, badly supported or any other product related issue, you can’t be expecting a lot of success are you?

If you are smart and can dig up the resources, it’s a great practice to test your product in advance at a smaller scale, collect the reviews and improve. This is not always possible but correcting mistakes in a quick manner is essential. You could even win a few points in your customer’s eyes if executed properly.

If you did a good job setting the values of your company and understanding what your customers expect, your product should be fine. Then, it’s only a mater of fine-tuning.

4. Deficient management.

It all boils down to leadership in my eyes. Being a good leader means having happy employees. Happy employees make happy customers. It’s that simple.

Jet I see the opposite all the time: miserable company culture, inadequate payment, lack of communication, stress, hate and unfair competition among employees. Nothing can thrive in such an environment.

Leadership is something you should figure out if you aspire to be an entrepreneur. I give you a hint: it’s a lot about compassion. Otherwise, you should be smart enough to step aside and hire someone that does it for you.

The more technical side of management is how well organized you are and how efficient you are at administering the company’s resources. Time management belongs here, too. Management is something you can learn. If that is not your thing, again, find someone who can.

It’s a matter of self awareness. Don’t let your own ego destroy your business.

5. Poor Communication.

You should have figured out what you need to communicate in the first phase, as you built the Brand Platform. But the values of your Brand only give direction and set the tone, the voice of your communication. How efficient the message can be delivered, is a matter of technique and tactics.

Firstly, you need to understand that attention is an asset. Where is the attention of your customer? Is it on social media, on television or on billboards? That’s where you need to be. Even if you don’t like it. And if you don’t show up in those places, how would your audience even know you exist?

By the way, a website, even a great one, is not going to be enough for most businesses in 2020 and the trend shows it’s getting worse. That shouldn’t mean, you don’t need a website or that it doesn’t have to be built well. It is still one of the most important touchpoints for any business, not only for startups. One that should communicate the values of your company.

6. Displeasing Touchpoints.

Touchpoints actually belong to communication but the situations where they are mismanaged and where customers are treated inappropriately are so common, that I want to hammer it separately.

Take support centers and guarantees for example. Those are touchpoints where your customer comes “begging” for help and is so often let down. If you want to stay in business, you can’t afford the bad experiences your customers have to go through. You will lose them for good. And what is worse, they will also tell others about it.

Now, imagine the opposite: delivering such a great experience, that your customers will convince others to join.

A more abstract approach to touchpoints and therefore to communication, is to look at every business-client interaction as a good opportunity to communicate your values. It’s those small things, but they add up to your brand.

Take your Logo for example. Does it look amateurish? Is it communicating your values and can be easily remembered or does it communicate you don’t care?

How about packaging? Did you just consider price or did you invest some thought on how it will be opened. Did your stupid molded plastic packaging just cut my finger?!? Fuck you, cheep company!

7. Persistence and patience.

If you figured the previous points out and business is still slow, it’s usually a matter of persistence and patience.

To a certain degree, you could beat time with a beefy marketing budget and by brilliantly covering all the above points. Especially communication. That would move the needle faster. Otherwise, be prepared to invest some time and perseverance.

On the other hand, business doesn’t have a finish line. You can’t arrive at the “I’m the best” finish line and end the race. There will always be someone assessing your weaknesses trying to surpass you. This is a race that never ends and you constantly need to improve in order to stay ahead. Then, you just need to outlast everyone.

There can be other causes that could contribute to a business failure. Some, you could say are industry specific. Sometimes luck plays a role, although, you should to be prepared for at least some unfortunate situations.

Other than luck, it’s all in your hands. You can’t blame others for failing. It’s just knowledge and the way you apply it. I guarantee you: if you score high on all the points above, you are going to be in business for a long time.

The expert position

You want to be respected?
You own the business but don’t feel like your own boss?
You want to be The One in your industry?

Position yourself as an expert!

This is good advice for life in general, but I find it important for business in particular and critical for service providers.

As a result, you won’t be pushed around or micromanaged and your recommendations won’t be questioned. You also won’t have to pitch because they will turn to you asking for help, therefore allowing you to charge more.

There is always a hierarchy game between people. Establishing a position in this hierarchy isn’t always a conscious process, but your actions will determine it. So, if you don’t clearly occupy (and maintain) a high position, someone will.

This is such a basic concept, that one could easy extend it to products too.

The process of determining your rank sums all the impressions and feelings one person has gathered about you. That includes how you look, talk, walk, dress and so on. Do you behave like an expert? Are you a pro?

Reputation is very powerful. People care about what other people think of you. You should control and use that. It lets you set your level in advance. That is why social media and testimonials are so powerful.

So how do you achieve the expert title? There is no workaround: you have to grow into one and also show it.

That is what this “For My Brand” blog is all about. To help you become The One.

Competition audit

You can’t ignore competition. It has the power to destroy or boost your business, depending on how well you understand its position in your market. The way to start understanding it, regardless if you are a startup or a seasoned entrepreneur, is through an audit.
 
The competition audit is one of the best tools to help you assess your business and the environment in which you operate. Whether you do it yourself or bring in an expert, here is what you should learn from it.
 
Firstly, how many competitors do you have? Knowing that there are many or just a few is not enough. You need a number. Make it as precise as possible.
 
If for no other reason, this is a precise way of learning how your niche evolves in time. If your niche is a goldmine, you might find, upon repeated auditing, that the numbers are flying up. Is that a concern? Sure, if it doubled in a year.
Or, on the other extreme, you dominate the market, so that half of your competitors give up. I’d sure want to see the numbers if that was the case.
 
Knowing the extent of your competition will also help classify the feasibility of your niche and how efficient your positioning is.

Too many competitors, might indicate that others see the business potential too. That’s good, it’s not just your wishful thinking. 

It also shows that you are targeting a large pool of customers. Once you know this, you can simply narrow your focus by targeting a more specific audience. This balancing act is a great way to thin out your competition, to specialize and to become the expert in your market.

If the number is very low, you might ask yourself if the niche you are in, is viable. Is the business idea any good? Are you being to specific in defining your ideal customer? Fine-tuning your focus is a great way to go from survival to success. You want to get this right!

David C. Baker has a must-read article on this. He even came up with a formula.

Knowing your niche and your business environment is great, but you get even more value out of your competition audit by using it to evaluate yourself. Think of your competition as if it was your own free of charge team. A team that already tested the target audience for you. It already made decisions and reacted to their needs. How did they do?

Speaking of team, are you considering how their advertising is also helping you? Think about it.

Learning the good stuff your competitors do, is a great way to learn what your own customers prefer. You might need to implement the findings in your own business or find ways to improve on those points.

Learning the mistakes your competitors do or did is even better and can help you avoid failure. To better illustrate that, let’s say you find out that the support your competitors offer is terrible. There is your opportunity: offer flawless support and make it your competitive advantage. Your customers will repay you with fidelity.
 
By deeply evaluating a thorough competition audit, you instantly recognize the strong players. Who is really serious about their future? Who are the ones that truly care about their customers? Which are the ones that invest in brand? Those are your worthy rivals. Know them well. They will be around for a while.
 
So you see, just by reframing how you look at competition changes everything. Don’t waste time and resources trying to beat the competition. They are your team. They are there to help you get better.

And getting better every day is what this is all about.

Employee or self-employed?

Are you happily employed? You better skip this post then. I’m about to argue against employment.

Let’s say you have some average job and you go to work every day. The entrepreneur, your boss, will have to sell your work for more. There is no other way. He/she will have to pay you as little as possible and sell it for as much as possible.

Clearly, the entrepreneur has to pay for a lot of stuff, like rent, materials, marketing, maybe a nice secretary or a staff chief… to help you work better.

On top of all those (justified) expenses comes the profit. The top 500 companies made $2.15 trillion profit last year (source: Fortune – https://fortune.com/global500/2019/). That is two million one hundred fifty thousand millions or 2 150 000 million if you prefer digits.

“Profits are better than wages.
“Profit can make you filthy rich. Wages don’t.”
– Jim Rohn

How much the entrepreneur can throw on top of your work depends on the business. It’s usually going to be sold for more than double. Anyhow, you’re not getting paid what your work is actually worth to the buyer. Your work has to cover company expenses too. How efficient are those managed? Could you do better?

Maybe you are pushing for a raise? How is it going? For most entrepreneurs, considering you can’t work more, raising your salary means less profit or having to raise prices. When it comes to raising, they rather fight employees over clients.

As an employee, you rent out your time. The time you can rent out is limited. So is the hourly rate. Thus, your earnings will always be limited.

“Hourly billing is nuts” – Jonathan Stark.

But it gets worse. Most jobs extend way beyond working hours. The daily commute, unfinished work you might take home, the exhaustion and the stress are all there AFTER work. And how is that for your life and family?

If you have higher aspirations, you might find it extremely hard to work on achieving them. You would need to invest at least some time and energy. After work! At work, your boss will try to squeeze everything out of you. Do you feel empty after work? Happy to just lay down? Good luck on your dreams. How about some depression instead?

At work, you can’t decide how your time is used. How about your free time? Need a day off or planning a vacation? You will need to ask for permission. You don’t get to decide. In fact, you don’t get to decide much or at all. Someone else sets the rules.

Surrendering to a job is letting others decide your future. Financial security is the argument used.

So, how secure is your job? And for how long? As you age, does this security increase? Does the company prefer older employees over younger ones? Is the entrepreneur making the right decisions or risking bankruptcy? Is technology, like AI, influencing your industry? Are layoffs necessary in order to keep shareholders happy? How is the market trending? And how about a financial crash? Again?

Maybe you have some ideas on how to prevent some of the above. If you read this blog, you should. Good luck getting them across.

I could go on and on adding poor health insurance, risky retirement plans, the worst colleagues and a nightmare boss into the mix. You could argue that self-employment also involves risk. Sure, it does. Risk is everywhere. Crossing the street is risky. It’s up to you to compare the risks and decide your life.
I’m here to raise awareness on your ‘good job’ and on your future. Also here to mitigate some of that risk, if you might dare the plunge.

I’m here to teach you how to become a successful entrepreneur. A better one, than the one you are working for.

Communication principles

Communication is vital, jet so many misunderstand and misuse it with regularity.
Here are some arguments to raise your awareness:
 
Without communication, we wouldn’t be.
 
Society was built through communication and every relationship is a communication game. We communicate with ourselves and our organs communicate to each other. So are our cells. Even microbial invasions depend on communication. 
 
Disrupting communication is an efficient way to destroy almost anything.
 
Being able to communicate better than others is how you gain leverage.
 
Communication is everywhere. In how we look, sound, smell, feel, and even taste.
 
How we behave is communication.
 
A loud fart in a full bus is how you communicate you’re a jerk. The answer, is how the others communicate what they think of you.
 
Who we choose to be is communication. It’s a choice.
 
Jet, every day, we see bad communication at work. The manager who can’t lead a team, the husband who fights his wife, the parent who doesn’t know how to deal with a rebel kid.
 
Organizations are no exception. Even huge corporations fuck up communication every day. Shameless lies, misleading advertising, unclear statements, poor design, stupid packaging and terrible support, just to name a few. What does it communicate? “Screw the customer! Profit is our god”.
 
Scarce communication is also a big topic. I find most of my clients in this state. I can tell by the desperate look in their eyes when I tell them to communicate daily on all major social media platforms. Choosing not to communicate is also a form of communication. Most of the time it is seen as insecurity, not as ”… silence is golden”.
 
Social media is one of the best communication tools ever invented. How we use it is often wrong.
 
We get to decide. No one is forcing you to post dumb stuff, or even to use the Internet. It’s on you if you choose to screw your customers, to be an awful boss, to yell at your kid or to fart in the bus.
 
If your communication tells everyone that you don’t care, why should anyone else care about you?

Short-term vs. long-term business

There are essentially two ways of doing business: short term and long term.
Most don’t think about this. I bet there are in the short-term game.

Capitalizing on opportunities isn’t entirely wrong. Jet, it’s a good way to fail in the long run if you are not aware of its finite life cycle.

Take trends, for example. You could earn a pretty penny out of today’s trend, but be aware, the opposite might be preferred next year. If your organization is not built to handle disrupting direction changes, you might quickly fail and even face bankruptcy.

Trendy for profit might also drive you to become immoral. It’s like playing the wolf in sheepskin. You might get a few sheep this way, but how long can you do this? Could you pretend to be a sheep for the rest of your life if required? And what if sheep would learn your smell? What if you couldn’t fool them anymore? What if sheep go extinct? And if pigs are trendy next year, would you become a pig?

If you’re not into animal examples, take the one Simon Sinek uses: Railroad tycoons. The once biggest companies faced extinction like dinosaurs as airplanes and automobiles came to life. They positioned their business as railway companies instead of transportation companies and perished fighting airplanes instead of owning them!

Long-term thinking is a condition to avoid extinction.

It allows you to position your business above trends and to transform trends in opportunities without being a fraud. You even get to set new trends. It comes with appreciation, followers and a solid, successful future.

Long-term business is achieved by building a brand. Great brands are led by outstanding leaders who are driven by high purpose, not profit. Great leaders are also fantastic human beings. Fantastic human beings can build a better world.

See how it all connects? Now, you have to decide. Quick profit or great legacy?

The Grinch

Merry Christmas everyone!
I’m having a great time this morning being the brand advisor of The Grinch himself 🙂

First thing I notice, is that being the Grinch isn’t the worst thing. Being unknown is far worse.
And having Santa as a rival is also a good thing: it’s just one.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who don’t like Christmas. There are plenty of reasons for that. Take religion, for example. And then there are the folks who hate the traffic around Christmas or the ones that have a problem with all the resources spent for organizing the Holidays. There are even some who just don’t like the red dressed oversized old Santa and even some who are afraid of him.

So, there is a niche and plenty of followers. We just need to identify them. Building those personas would be a fun exercise.

Now how about brand strategy?
It wouldn’t be a good brand strategy to just turn everything upside-down. Advising the Grinch to become nice and to love Christmas would be a big mistake. The Grinch couldn’t ever compete on niceness with Santa. It would be against his beliefs and the ones of his fellowship.
As a result he would instantly lose his advantage.

The point is, a brand doesn’t need to be nice and jolly. As long as you find and serve your people, you also have a business. Being the Grinch is not that bad so don’t be grumpy. It’s still Christmas.

Ho, ho, ho…

Year review

We’re about to complete another year and maybe you feel like writing a review.
It’s not the trend that should drive your action, but the need to evaluate your progress.

How do you feel about the past year? How did you change? What did you learn?

Here is my guideline: If I’m looking back at my one-year-younger version, and I’m not ashamed, then, I didn’t learn enough.

I heard this a few years ago and it stuck with me. It became like a mantra. And I use it all the time, not only at the end of the year.

Mainly because learning is the most precious investment ever. It’s something you can take with you everywhere, whatever the situation. It’s the foundation for all your actions. It’s what can generate success and even happiness. Those, if applied, it will shape your future and the future of all the people around you.

Imagine this: If you learn how to be a better leader and entrepreneur, it will affect you, your family, your friends, your employees and also their families. This can go far beyond that. Think of people that changed the world. That is what I’m talking about.

Just by learning stuff, you can change the future.
Think about it for a moment and let it sink in. It’s life changing.

Branding vs Brand Design

It’s funny how people confuse the two so let’s clear it up quickly.

Brand design is about designing a brand. It’s not design used to create brand elements. It’s the architecture of a brand and it happens in the planning phase.

A good sample of that is when building a personal brand that sprouts other brands. Elon Musk and his Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, Neuralink, etc. brands is a good example.
I’ll write more on this under “Planning for my Brand”

Design and Branding are a huge topic. We find a bit of confusion here too.
A Logo is not a brand. It’s just a symbol to remind people of your brand. Not even the whole Corporate Identity can be simply equaled to brand.

The Brand is about feelings. It’s about how people feel about your or your business. For this to happen, people will have to come in contact with your brand first. That is what we call “Brand touchpoints” and this is where Design gets to be the lead actor.

Design is decisive to all the visual touchpoints of your brand: the logo, the colors, the typeface, the interior design, the products, the packaging and so on.

All design elements have to be aligned to the brand core values. That is why you always need to start at the core. A discovery session is a good approach if you want to find those core values. A good designer will understand and apply this. He will go deep into the soul of your brand before he starts showing you logo options.

Finding a designer that can understand your brand and how it’s values need to be communicated, is something that way to many entrepreneurs ignore. That is one of the first checkpoints in your entrepreneurial journey. It’s what will set the whole tone of your business and it’s what people will feel about you and your brand.

Don’t screw it! You’ll regret it later.

Positioning for Value Based Pricing is THE key to success and prosperity

Value based pricing is by far the most discussed and most interesting pricing method out there. It’s also the best.
In theory, it could be applied to almost any pricing situation. Depending on your business, value based pricing can be a game changer, however, you need to be aware of its limitations.

There are two main ways to understand value pricing.

The more classical one, is usually applied to products and productized services that only have some differences when compared to competition. “It’s the same, but mine is better because of X, Y, Z.”
If those differences have a value for certain buyers, you can set a price on them. Determining who this people are and the value they perceive, is the task you end up with. Communicating those differences to the right people is how you position yourself.

The other way of applying value based pricing is more suitable for custom services or even custom-made stuff. In this scenario, you solve a problem for the buyer. If the problem is big enough for the buyer, you can charge a lot for solving it.
Only the perceived value counts, not how much you spend to solve the problem.
For some, it won’t be that big of a problem, so you might not be able to solve it and still make a profit.
Solving big problems for “big” people is where you want to be positioned.


If your business isn’t positioned properly, value based pricing can be even impossible to implement.

By not differentiating your product from others, you put the buyer in a difficult position: having one to many choices. Choices complicate decision-making. It’s a conflict that needs to be solved.

There is a solid chance your buyer wont toss a coin to make the buying decision. To solve the dilemma they will search for some differences. If you ever researched for hours before buying something, you know what I mean. This is natural. Comparing stuff is how our brain functions. Finding even tinny differences and establishing a hierarchy for the buying options, is how we solve the conflict.

This is why price-comparison and product-testing websites have thrived.

So, if your product is a commodity (others sell it too), you are most-likely forcing the buyer to compare prices. You are competing on price. You’ll need to “go low”. I don’t need to tell you how that ends.

A good positioning makes your product or service unique in the eyes of your buyer. This “One of a kind”, adds value to your product or service and this perceived value is what it’s all about. It also helps solving the buying decision conflict. They will thank you for this.

Here are the best positions to sell from:

  • Expert: you are seen as THE expert in your field – you are the safe option, most likely to solve the problem, the buyer can’t afford the risk
  • Brand: you have grown a brand name, so even if others sell the same stuff you get all the love
  • Problem solving: you solve a problem that others can’t – even if you are not THE expert in you field, if you’re the only one who can solve this, you get to be the only choice
  • How you do it: the way you solve the problem is unique in some way. For the ones that appreciate this, you are the one.
  • Demographic: you are the only one that can speak to this people – language, culture, tradition, race, sex, age, usually, a unique combination of those.

I realize how exceptional these examples are. Being the number one expert or the only one capable to solve a problem is rare or at least time limited.
The solution is straight forward: use a combination! Be an expert, with a good reputation, who knows to solve a problem in a good way and who is able to communicate to a specific buyer.


Making it easy for the buyer to identify you as the obvious choice is what positioning is all about.
Combining it with value pricing is THE key to success and prosperity.

Convenience

Convenience is one of the biggest driving forces in decision-making.

We try to cut corners every day. We give up our privacy, just to be able to buy with one click. Some even prefer stomach surgery to dieting.

We would do anything if it would spare us some effort. Most people can’t fight this kind of laziness, it’s part of evolution. Nature needs to be efficient and preserve energy whenever possible. As a result, we are on a shortcut hunt all the time.

For entrepreneurs, convenience is a powerful marketing tool. Especially if you sell the same or similar product as your competition.
If your product isn’t unique, you are left to compete on price and convenience. When done right, convenience wins.

If you find yourself in this uneasy situation and have to compete on price, you should immediately check your competition. Can you deliver a better user experience and make it easier for the clients to do business with you?

Here are just a few aspects to look into:
Are you easy to find?
Is it simple to do business with you?
What touchpoints need to be optimized?
How many steps does your client make until he gets your product?
Is your statement clear enough?

And even if your product is one of a kind, you should still fiddle every aspect of your business to make it more accessible. Do you offer enough payment options, a quick delivery and reliable service? Is your support friendly and helpful?

People will notice your effort to make their life easier. They will know you care. This builds brand!

Convenience is also a good argument for widespread marketing communication. Use all platforms if possible. Some hate Facebook, some think TikTok is stupid. You should know better.

Make it convenient easy for your clients.

Lucky plans

If you don’t plan your life, others will.

Acquiring skills can be a good plan for your life. At least if you also have a good plan on how to use them.

Maybe you are lucky and don’t need a plan.

With a bit of luck, a set of good skills will get you a job.
A job is not your plan. It’s how you contribute to someone else’s plan.

If you’re lucky, they included you in their plans: a job you don’t hate, a decent salary and a stable employment until you retire. If you’re lucky, it’s a long-term stable plan, without layoffs, cutoffs or similar life-changing events.

If those plans also align with your personal life, you can call yourself very lucky.

If you’re really, really lucky, you work for a great leader.

Great leaders care for you, listen to your needs and help you grow. Great leaders go beyond having a good plan, they serve a cause.

If you’re so damn lucky, it will be a cause that will give your life meaning so you can live a purposeful and happy life.

How lucky are you?

Freelancer vs Entrepreneur – a Definition

There is a lot of confusion around the two terms and a lot of people use them wrongly.

What is a Freelancer?

Originally the word Freelancer described a “medieval mercenary warrior” or “free-lance” who’s lance was not sworn to a lord or master. Are you free and carry a lance? You are a freelancer. And don’t worry, other weapons will do, as long as you know how to use them.

Today we mostly refer to professionals who are self-employed and are working alone. Sometimes they are called independent contractors. For your grandma, it could mean unemployed and come with a negative connotation. This is changing as we speak.

What is an Entrepreneur?

Seth Godin’s take on this: A freelancer is available for hire. Entrepreneurs hire other people to do the job.

Wikipedia has a rather long definition for Entrepreneurship. Here is a piece that clearly sets it apart from Freelancing: “…the entrepreneurial process requires the organization of people and resources.”

The take-away: They scale differently.

Freelancers usually scale by having better clients, so they have to become experts in their niche. Entrepreneurs also need to know what their doing, but don’t need to become experts in their field of business. They can hire in order to grow the business, and they can hire experts to dominate the field.

Why is the definition important?

It defines your strategy. It defines your actions. If you understand the difference, you are going to change your evolution. As a freelancer you should invest a lot in yourself, as an entrepreneur you should primarily invest in others. You need to make a choice.

What is your choice?

Original Ideas

Do you feel like a fraud for not having original ideas? Are you censoring yourself because of that? Do you call it a writer’s block?


Coming up with original ideas, ideas that no-one before has articulated, is really, really hard. Someone said it before, someone has written about it, someone thought about it before you. Good luck beating Socrates on original ideas.


People share inspiration for as long as we have been a species, so it’s getting harder every day to come up with something truly original. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t stop looking for new ideas. It’s great if you find one that hasn’t been claimed but don’t get stuck if you don’t. Promoting great ideas or simply not letting them die is also a big deal. It could be your deal. Because the way you deliver an idea IS original.


Everyone is a bit different. Some are quite unique and you, for sure, are one of a kind.

You have your own way of understanding the world and your unique way of communicating ideas. And that is the superpower you should use. Because your way of communicating will resonate with some people in a way no-one else does. Because the way you articulate what you have learned can touch and change peoples lives in a unique way. Even if it’s not your idea!

For a select audience you could be even better at communicating that idea than the original creator. So what actually maters is to find your voice.

It will be a voice that will resonate with a special kind of people. The kind that will become your audience.