Premature Diversification

Wednesday 12 December 2012 @ 10:13 am

Rich Christiansen The past several weeks I’ve been preparing for a trip where we will represent several up-and-coming, exciting brands for one of my companies. Through the course of these activities I’ve been exposed to several very creative and very innovative ideas and concepts.

There’s one company in particular that has received an extreme amount of attention. They were featured on the television show Shark Tank and were indeed one of the winners. They won again at a statewide entrepreneurial conference and have received an excessive amount of media and exposure. As I met with these young entrepreneurs I was exhilarated but also dismayed in our very short meeting. Their high-energy level, exuberance of entrepreneurship, and the zeal for which they were attacking opportunity was exhilarating. However I was dismayed as I saw what they were doing. Indeed they had come up with a very novel creative market concept that had been broadly embraced and was getting them a lot of attention. What did they do with it? Rather than dig deeply, rather than fully explore all the channels, rather than totally take advantage and captivate this corner of the market they’ve instantly started to branch out and add all sorts of diverse products. For instance they were scheduled to fly down to meet with a celebrity’s daughter the following day to start a new line of handbags. They’re developing cell phone technologies, literally exploiting the small channel that they’d developed on ancillary things that haven’t yet proven success.

Indeed my one of the entrepreneurs that I really respect is David Norton who will often make the statement that the reason for failure in small businesses is premature diversification. I personally think that the number one reason is cash flow, but I agree with David that the second reason is premature diversification. If I were to wind the clock forward several years I would suspect that these young entrepreneurs would learn this lesson (hopefully not too much the hard way).

In the early stages of our business we need to find something that works and do more of it efficiently and effectively and fully develop the channels and make sure you have adequate conversion before you diversify. It’s not to say that diversification is not appropriate, it’s just doing it at the right time.

Go forward, prosper, and win in your business.

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Combo Meal Post

Tuesday 23 October 2012 @ 2:02 pm

Today’s post is a combo meal. You get two for the price of one largely because I couldn’t decide which one to blog on so here goes both.

My first concept is all about working hard and playing hard. I believe that working hard and then playing hard is far more efficient and productive than just working hard all the time. Each year I schedule a hard working day with my sons, particularly my younger sons. I do this to give them the experience of working on a hard project, jumping in, and just tackling something really difficult. I then make sure to always follow that up with a fun play experience.

The past several days I had my wife assemble a list of every nasty, disgusting, difficult assignment that she could come up that needed to be done for our rental properties. I took my two youngest sons, Timmy and Alex, which I affectionately refer to as my “Little Men” and we embarked on chasing down all these projects. Indeed we worked our guts out but actually had a really good time doing it. There’s a great personal reward in seeing a project through to completion.

After we finished our projects we went swimming in a natural spring pool, had a great dinner, and went crawdad catching. Now for those of you who have never tried catching these little critters there are a couple of things you need to know.

You can’t catch these things with your bare hands or even a net. You’ve got to toss a stinky, rotten piece of meat (I prefer bacon) on a string out in the warm water, count to ten, and then pull it in. This year was particularly good. Every pull we were catching anywhere from seven to fifteen of these little crayfish. My sons were absolutely delighted as they pulled in each catch with these little guys hanging on with one pincer and snapping with they other saying, “You give me back my bacon!”

This leads to my second concept: There are important things you have to let go of in your life in order to succeed.

There are a lot of life lessons associated with this. I’ve found myself acting like these little crayfish at times by hanging on too tightly to business ventures and projects. Things that would normally scare me and make me swim upstream to safety will actually grab my attention with a piece of stinky bacon. I hang onto that piece of meat, snapping away until something bigger squashes and kills me.

It is important that you give up bad personal and business habits and recognize when you’re hanging onto a piece of moldy bacon. We have a little business right now with one of my groups where we’ve been snapping away at it for nine months. We’re just not getting any traction. As a matter of fact we’re ignoring some other, more meaningful opportunities and I’m right on the verge of labeling it a bad piece of bacon and giving counsel to let it go. Now there’s a fine balance of being doggedly determined and then there’s pouring all your focus into a rotting piece of bacon. Do NOT be as those crawdads and hanging hang on until your very death when all you have to do is let go and live to swim another day. 

In closing here are the two key important business lessons of today:

Lesson #1: Work Hard. Play Hard. It’s far more productive than just working into oblivion.
Lesson #2: Let go of the caustic things in your life that are actually causing destruction, both in your business and personal life.

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Free Teleseminar: Rich Dialoging with Rick Sapio on Value Gatekeeping and Saying No.

Friday 12 October 2012 @ 2:49 pm

I’m really excited to announce that on Tuesday October 16 at noon (Mountain Standard Time) I will be interviewing and dialoging with Rick Sapio about Value Gatekeeping. In both books I’ve written I’ve discussed the importance of saying no. In Bootstrap Business I say that the number two reason for failure in small businesses is premature diversification. In other words: doing too many things and not being able to effectively say no to the things that are distractive. Rick Sapio is heavily quoted in my book The Zig Zag Principle and indeed a brilliant mind on this topic.

What a rare, unique opportunity for you to attend this free teleseminar and learn from Rick, the direct master of the concept of value gatekeeping. Learning the in’s and out’s of value gatekeeping allows you to set filters that keep the crap out of your life while allowing the important things to get through.

Again, this call will be on October the 16th and will start at noon Mountain Standard Time and will run from an hour to an hour and a half. To sign up for it simply click the link below and register for the free event. You’ll receive an email with the information and the option of attending the seminar via telephone or web.

I look forward to seeing you on the call and I’m also looking forward to learning more from Rick about Gatekeeping. See you Monday!

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The Pendulum Swings

Wednesday 3 October 2012 @ 2:12 pm

For the last five years I’ve watched with fascination at what is known as the Pendulum Principle. This concept was developed by Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads, and widely propagated by Michael Drew, my book agent for Zig Zag.

The concept of Pendulum is that every forty years the pendulum swings from a civic society or a group collaboration of everyone working together to the other extreme of an individualistic society then swinging back forty years later. Each time a society reaches a pinnacle the youth rebel and they start bringing the pendulum back.

This book goes through statistically showing that this has happened over and over for hundreds and hundreds of years just exactly how we swing between a civic society and an individualistic society. Interestingly enough we just crossed over into a civic era again and I watch with great fascination in being able to predict and to see the trends that are occurring that wouldn’t have occurred ten years ago. It’s reflected in our media, it’s reflected in our music, and it’s reflected in our social behaviors.

Pendulum released this week and this is a book I can’t wait to get my hands on to re-read. I would suggest that this is also a book that you should be reading if you’re attempting to have a crystal ball that lets you see into the future to understand the behavior patterns that are occurring and trending in our society.

Understanding this helps you dramatically predict what to do in your business to have a higher probability of success. Again, the name of the book is Pendulum and you can click on the link below to get to this book.

Happy Reading.

Check out Pendulum here.

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Monday 1 October 2012 @ 10:57 am

Good morning, everyone! I’m coming to you live from my office today! It’s been a little while. Today’s topic was important enough that I wanted to go face to face with you. I’m so thrilled with the outcome of what we’ve seen from the Zig Zag Principle. Only one in ten small businesses were succeeding. The people that are using Zig Zag Principle and have read it we’re finding that one in six, and one in seven are finding success. Really a great increase in the odds, but something really troubles me. That’s still too low of odds. The reality is the individuals that I’ve mentored (or there’s been mentoring in some form), the odds for success are one in two to one in three. I like those odds a lot better. 

This has been a real quandary for me. There’s no way that I can individually mentor everyone. I have no training program. I have no big boot camps or anything like that to get one on one with individuals, but I know that the odds of success are so much higher if you actually engaged in the system and have some type of mentoring and interaction going on. To that end I’m doing something that I haven’t done before. I’m endorsing and I’m encouraging you small business owners who are struggling to go engage with Rick Sapio. He runs a website called “Business Finishing School”. It has high-definition, quality videos that go through many of the processes and discuss many of the topics in detail that I have covered and it also provides you a level of engagement and feedback that quite frankly we haven’t been able to provide you in Zig Zag Principle. 

As you know, Rick Sapio is probably quoted more in the book than any other individual. There are two specific things that I really drew on from him. First of all is the values as the basis and second of all the concept of dismissing inappropriate things from your life in the form of a gatekeeper. 
I encourage you to click on and go to Business Finishing School as part of this blog post. As I was discussing with Rick he’s going to give you a money-back guarantee here. He’s also going to give you a signed copy of Zig Zag Principle and invite you to the big event that’s coming up and I encourage you to investigate this, to look at this, and sign up for his program. It will definitely increase your probability of success. 
Good luck, go forward, Zig Zag, and find success.

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Hole-in-One on a Horrible Day

Thursday 27 September 2012 @ 9:35 am

The last three weeks have been a misery-fest on earth. Everything that could wrong has indeed gone wrong. I had to lay one of my teams off. There’s another team that’s been pressing very hard, but they’re on life support and despite doing EVERYTHING right they just cannot get a break. I mean CANNOT get a break in any shape, form, or fashion. We have a third team that’s actually having some good success but we’re not reaching our potential.

Today I reached a breaking point. You see I started out the morning in a board meeting where we had to determine to close one of the businesses that I’d invested in so the entire month has been one difficult conversation after another. I’ve also had multiple individuals the last couple of days coming to me with just completely brain-dead, insane requests and demands upon me and my resources.

I handled these maturely but I knew at the end of the day that if I had even one more slightly delicate conversation I would erupt and would have cleaned all of China in the process. So I checked out ten minutes early and I snuck out by myself, grabbed my new Callaway golf clubs, and went to the golf course. I didn’t care how I played. I was so steamed up all I wanted to do was squish that golf ball.
I got onto Hole 1 of Gladstan, pulled out my driver, and ripped it, and of course I drew it a little bit left, but on the fairway still. The next hit took the ball smack down on the second shot on the green where I overshot the green a little bit but managed to chip back and get my card. I didn’t care about my score at this point quite frankly. It just felt good to squish that ball and get a little frustration out in a positive way.

Got onto the second hole, a par three across the water, one hundred and seventy-eight yards with the pin just a little bit forward. That’s a 7-iron for me. I pull out my 8-iron thinking I am just gonna get after it. I normally hit my 8-iron a hundred and fifty-five yards. I come down on the ball and hit it perfectly. I saw the ball flying directly towards the pin and saw it land right next to the pin. It looked like it came just a little behind and I thought, “Wow. That was a great shot.” But I was frankly still just so ripped at the day that I didn’t give any credibility to it until I pulled up to the green.

My perspective on life and the day changed dramatically when I pulled up and I saw no ball and I knew at that moment it had gone in the hole because I knew I had hit it really close.

Sure enough, some guys came up and said, “You just hit a hole-in-one.” I walked up to the hole. The ball had landed three feet and one foot to the right behind the pin, spun back, and dropped directly into the hole. I’ve been golfing since I was fourteen years old. I’ve hit a lot of great shots but never a hole-in-one. Indeed, I got my first hole-in-one when I was on the verge of killing half the universe and quite frankly felt like throwing in the towel and giving it all up. This was a glorious opportunity for me individually and it gave me a great life lesson. My hole-in-one was was a turning point for me, my golf game, and I can guarantee that my business life will also flip around and be positive now because I’m going after it to win rather than playing not to lose and not being a victim. Indeed I’ve fallen into victimhood a little bit. Sometimes we all do. I think there are some great life lessons to learn here and in business.

Keep hitting the ball. Try taking the pressure off a little bit. Sometimes we amp it too hard, but you know what? You’ve got to keep striking the ball because the brakes will come and the tide will eventually turn. Then at the very last second when you least expect it to happen is typically when it happens. The last thing that I had on my mind quite frankly was playing a good golf game. If you want to get a good chuckle watch my righteous indignation in the video below. I was pretty delighted about the hole-in-one but you can see a little bit of the steam coming off in the process.

So stick with it, keep with it, crazy economy and all. All us entrepreneurs are the glue that will hold this economy together and let’s keep after it. Let’s keep the faith and remember that the universe gives us a hand every once in a while.


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Maybe They’ll Blow You Some Kisses

Thursday 6 September 2012 @ 2:56 pm

Seasoned business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs alike, I want to share a fun video from one of the teens I work with. Zach Van Pelt made this spot as a creative way to ask a young woman to Homecoming.

This was simply the best date invitation I have ever seen.

Business Advice: If you ask your customers to the dance with the same gusto and creativity as Zach asked his date to the dance, you are certain to get a kiss.

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Making Mud Makes Hay

Monday 3 September 2012 @ 12:04 pm

I’m now formally back. I’ve spent the last four months on a personal sabbatical. I’ve had an amazing summer with my family and with my loved ones. I’ve hiked in the Grand Canyon, spent a month of service in Guatemala, and spent a couple of weeks with my beautiful wife in Europe. 

As I got back last week there was quite a bit of chaos in my business life. Quite frankly, a number of things were somewhat on the floor. I very specifically attacked these three businesses in the following manner. I’m calling this process, “Making Mud Makes Hay”. I’d like to offer some real simple suggestions for when you find yourself overwhelmed, outta control, or not certain if you’re doing the right thing.

#1. Brain Dump. Take everything you know and just start vomiting all over the table (do that vomit on a white board.)

#2. Categorize everything you’ve written into the following categories:
•    What you know?
•    What you don’t know?
•    What the questions are?
•    What are the key levers? What are the levers that can be pulled that are most impactful in the business.
•    What are all the different actions that you can potentially take?

As you spend a few hours brainstorming through this, amazing things happen. Warning: your white board will look like a mess, but despite the scribbles, you actually start getting clarity on the important areas of the business.

#3. List Potential Actions and Levers. Let me give an example. I’m in front of my board right now, and in one of my website businesses we determined that the levers are:
– To get more traffic
– To be more precise in our measurement
– To get better offers at a higher pay out, or to better flow our conversions

Those are the major levers that would really impact the business. We then graded those levers on how well we are doing currently. Then we went and focused on the most obvious lever, which translated into the following:
–    An action list of what we could do
–    What we need to learn
–    What we know that gives us confidence
–    What we don’t know

Making similar lists allows you to go in and explore key things, while ignoring less important areas. I had a business associate that called this selective negligence. Knowing what to ignore in your business, is just as important as deciding what to focus on. Allowing yourself to say, I choose to neglect that because it’s not of importance, is vital for success.

I speak frequently of the 80/20 rule. Thank you Dr. Steven Covey for this powerful concept. Indeed the 80/20 rule revolves around nearly every bootstrap success. The rule is: Twenty percent of effort yields eighty percent of the results.

In this blog post I have included a picture of three white boards. These indeed were three of the brain dumps (making mud) that we did this week. One is a task list or the white board. The second shows the priorities of the actions to do. The third one is the brain dump of something that is very confusing and has us all up in arms–specifically in the SEO industry.

By following this methodology I was able to:
– Get to real clarity
– Get real focused with the team
– I believe that it will yield results.

I have now been back from my little sabbatical for two weeks. Simply by getting focused and focusing on the big balls I can confidently say that the impact has been marked and significant in the form of dollars.
When you get afraid in your business, when you get discouraged or confused–I challenge you to vomit all over your white board. Follow this process. I commit to you it will work and it will make a significant difference.

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It’s the Indian, Not the Arrow

Monday 23 July 2012 @ 1:24 pm

This morning at 4:00 a.m. I jumped on an airplane and made my way to Carlsbad, CA. There I was able to experience a personal custom fitting at the Callaway Golf base. Now, anyone that knows me knows that I am an absolute tech geek. I was in heaven. There at Callaway was every camera, every computer, every peice of the latest technology designed to help analyze the ball rotation and launch angle and the impact of the club on the ball as it connected with my club’s head. The experience was incredible.

After the fitting, I finally sat down, delighted, and feeling absolutely sure I could bury every hole on the course. Now I am realistic enough to realize that my skill level just isn’t going to allow that. However, I still maintain it is very important every once in a while to recharge. It’s vital to get yourself to that next level with tools or training or resources in order to reach the competitive edge and then grow and advance your business. I can’t stress how very important it is to get yourself into the mental capacity to progress the business.

My dear friend and business partner Curtis Blair will often say, “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.”  What he means by this is, that it is often your individual skill that matters far more than the equipment you use.

That being said–today it was about the arrow, not the Indian.

Getting refreshed.

Taking time to pause.

Taking time to go to the training.

These things can be extremely powerful in mentally advancing your business. 

Make sure that you take pause to give yourselves those mental rewards along the way. After all, one of the key points of The Zig Zag Principle is to put the rewards out there and then take time to savor them along the way.

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The 5 Step Cheat Sheet to Business Idea Breakthrough

Monday 16 July 2012 @ 7:04 pm

In 1583 a young man attending a University in Pisa, Italy became very disinterested and bored with the lecture at hand. Instead of listening, he turned his observation to an overhead light that was swinging randomly. He took his pulse and began feeling the irregularity of his pulse and observed in timing that the interval between the short swing of the lamp vs. the long swing of the lamp was exactly the same. Indeed this initial observation was one of the major breakthroughs in randomness thinking vs. measurement thinking in our society.

This young man was Galileo. Indeed he went on to apply sequential patterns to numbers, movements, stars, and many other things. Today we are all aware of how deeply Galileo impacted science, thinking, and society.

So what does this story have to do with business idea breakthrough? Indeed the key thing that Galileo did was observe! Too frequently we all fail to simply observe. We sometimes listen, we sometimes look, we often accept the dogma–myself included. So I’d like to offer up five key steps that you need to engage in to have your business breakthrough idea.

1. Listen. Listen and watch. Really listen, really watch, and observe what is going on around you. Too frequently we ignore all the little signs all the little interesting behaviors. How many thousands of years have people observed swinging lamps, but not taken the time to notice them and measure? How interesting is that little subtle difference that caught his interest?

2. Once you observe, ask “why”. I knew a shining example of this–a four year old named James. Every question out of his mouth was, why? As adults, too frequently we quit asking why and thus we fail to learn and have mental breakthroughs.

3. Find an anomaly. In my experience, anytime you see something that makes you say, “Well that’s interesting.” or “Oh I don’t quite understand that.” or “Oh, that’s strange!” that means the situation is laden with dollars and laden with opportunities.

Most people glance over those opportunities as simply an anomaly. I can say that five or six of the businesses that I have had the most success with have started with a strange little anomaly I’ve found success when I’ve have taken the time to listen and watch, ask why, and dig deeper.

4. Don’t accept the dogma. I have to chuckle a little at folks who are at peace with simply following the experts and accepting the status quo. I’m not saying that we don’t listen to those with expert opinion, but the reality is, we can’t accept everything as it is presented.

There are problems in the way we repeatedly approach learning and continually ask the same questions. With my youth that I help educate, one of the ten mandatory rules is “Don’t accept anything just because it was told to you.” You have to test it and prove it out and use logic for yourself.

5. Trust your gut, and test it. You can trust your gut and natural intuition, but once you discover that intuition…measure it and validate it.

You see, too frequently individuals attempt to do either one or the other. They attempt to say, “Oh I have a gut feel, therefore it’s true.” But think about how well that worked out for those who believed the world was flat.

On the other hand, if you just rely 100% on logic, you lose. The solution is to marry the heart and the head. In other words, rely on both intuition and scientific method. Test to see if your results can be reproduced. See if those results can be consistent.

Indeed, this is an art form combined with a science. These 5 steps work. I tell you they are the fundamental punch points of being able to come up with great ideas that then translate into success and then into dollars.

Just as Galileo of old took the time to observe, please and take the time to contemplate and understand the nuances of what is going on around you.

Never before have there been so many resources for us. Never before have there been so many opportunities for success. I look forward to hearing and seeing the great business ideas pop up around the world. Observe just like Galileo did in 1583.

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Rich Christiansen