Nine Business Book Takeaways That Can Help Your Startup

Whether you’re new to entrepreneurship or been at it for a while, these ideas from noted business books can help you reach your goals:

1) Don’t try to win by competing in an already crowded market space. Create an uncontested new market space that makes the competition irrelevant. — Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

2) An effective advertisement depends upon using the right appeal. The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. – Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

3) A critical question is not whether you’ll have luck. It’s what you do with the luck that you get. Great by Choice by Jim Collins

4) Thinking big can get you somewhere. But combine it with thinking long and you have a recipe for greatness. – Never Too Late to be Great by Tom Butler-Bowdon

5) When we resist something, it can seem harder than it really is. But when you decide to stop dreading a chore and focus on getting it done, it won’t seem nearly as painful. – The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan by Stephanie Chandler

6) If you excel in a particular area and can channel it into a business, chances are you are going to do it better than your competition. – The Pampered Chef by Doris Christopher

7) Followers want someone who will tell them the truth, be with them when the going gets tough, give them optimism and hope in the future, and keep the ship on even keel. – Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

8) Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone, stop what you’re doing and “upserve” instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.  – To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

9) Building a great business isn’t about the destination. Enjoy the journey. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re racing to get to the end. – Traction by Gino Wickman

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From Secretary to Handywoman

Jo Ellen Soesbee used to spend her days answering phones and filing papers. Now she sports a hard hat and wields a power drill.

Soesbee, 58, is the owner of the ToolBox TomGirl, which offers home and business repair services as well as facility maintenance services. She opened her Pasadena, Maryland-based business in 2013.

As reported in this Costco Connection article, Soesbee was a secretary for over 20 years. She stumbled upon her passion for home improvement while taking a college class with an assignment to write a business plan. Hers was about a handyman business that would handle small projects and offer other hard-to find services.

The business plan led Soesbee to launch her first company, Reliable Repairs, in 2004. Eight year later, when Soesbee and her husband went their separate ways, Reliable Repairs closed and ToolBox TomGirl was born.

Soesbee also teaches at Anne Arundel Community College where she is on the adjunct faculty for the Women’s Institute. Her LinkedIn page points out that Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects aren’t just for guys. Says the ToolBox TomGirl: “Women are just a capable and it is my quest is to empower women to do things around their homes themselves.”

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Professional Football Players Who Became Entrepreneurs

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner — which got me thinking about National Football League players who start businesses later in life.  Here’s a look at some of them:

Mike Lodish, Pat’s Gourmet – Lodish, who played in six Super Bowls (four with the Buffalo Bills, two with Denver Broncos), launched his candy business in 2011. The 48-year-old’s company makes peanut brittle from his mother’s recipe.

Dan Marino and Damon Huard, Passing Time winery – The two quarterbacks were Miami Dolphins teammates. Now they’ve teamed up to produce great wine. Marino, 54, and Huard, 42, thought about the idea of a winery for 15 years before finally launching Passing Time in 2014.

Ron Jaworski, Ron Jaworski Golf Management – Jaworski was a quarterback for several teams during his NFL days. Now he has a company that manages golf courses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Jaworoski, 64, also is an NFL analyst on ESPN.

Al “Bubba” Baker, Bubba’s Q World Famous Bar-B-Que & Catering – For a long time, Baker dreamed of national distribution for his patented De-Boned Baby Back Rib Steaks. In 2013, the former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman – who’s now 59 — took a big step toward that goal when he appeared on “Shark Tank” and struck a deal with FUBU clothing line founder Daymond John.

John Elway, multiple businesses – Elway spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos before retiring at age 38. He now serves as the team’s executive vice present of football operations. He also owns or co-owns a couple of car dealerships and has a couple of steakhouses.

Mark Moseley, Five Guys franchise owner – Moseley, a former Washington Redskins kicker, was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1982. After football, Moseley went into real estate and later launched Mark Moseley’s Travel, Mark Moseley’s Famous Fries and other business enterprises. Now 67, Moseley owns several Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises and serves as the restaurant chain’s Director of Franchise Development.

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Eight Notable Quotes from 2015

Here are eight quotes from posts that appeared on this blog last year. I hope they provide a useful perspective as you set goals for 2016.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year —

Lynne

*********************

1) “I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there as the worst thing that can happen is I get told ‘no.’ I’ve learned not to take that as a personal rejection, which I would have in my younger years. Now, ‘no’ just means to try again.” — Samantha Judd, founder, Flip Lid Lunchbox

2) “The thing I’ve learned most about being an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to fail…I make 10 mistakes practically before I get out of bed every morning, and I’ve learned much more from my failings than I have from my successes in my life.” – LeVar Burton, co-founder of RRKidz and one-time host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow” television program

3) “When you wake up and dread going to work, thinking, ‘I can’t do this for another second,’ it’s time to change.” – Andrew Brill, sportscaster (Brill interned for WABC-TV New York when he was in his 40s)

4) “You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt. Now you’re going to see how I get back up.” – George Zimmer, founder, zTailors Generation Tux and Men’s Warehouse (Zimmer left the men’s clothing retailer in 2013)

5) “Your forties are the moment when you start to become aware. It’s just the beginning. I’ve always believed that to confirm your way of thinking takes time. It takes experimenting. You have to confront different chapters of your life.” — Giorgio Armani, fashion designer and founder of the Armani business empire

6) “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.” – Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s hamburger chain

7) “Being in a creative industry, it’s quite natural that one comes up with harebrained ideas. And I have come up with a few in my time. I started looking at this amazing world of ours with a different lens.” – Megan Sanders, Pineapple Heads children’s hair care products

8) “Average people place blame. Successful people take responsibility.” – Craig Valentine, 1999 Toastmasters International Public Speaking Champion

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A Men’s Clothing CEO Gets Fired – And Starts Two Businesses

At age 66, George Zimmer, the founder of Men’s Wearhouse, has two new businesses.

One is zTailors where customers can rent tuxedos online and get them delivered to their homes. On its website, the company says it “gives everyone an opportunity to look their best with just a tap of their smartphone.”

The other business is Generation Tux, an online rental service for tuxedos and suits. Customers shop online via the GenTux Studio, enter measurements and receive their items. After the event, everything goes back in the shipping box and returned.

As reported in this MarketWatch article, the two businesses are a good fit for Zimmer, who opened the first Men’s Wearhouse more than 40 years ago. Zimmer’s fame arose from the clothing retailer’s commercials and his baritone-voiced delivery of its tagline: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

Zimmer and Men’s Wearhouse parted ways in 2013. On the day he was fired, Zimmer had a heart-to-heart talk with his family over dinner.

“You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt,” he said. “Now you’re going to see how I get back up.”

With zTailors and Generation Tux, Zimmer has found a way to combine his clothing experience with the Internet – and have fun at the same time. On New Year’s Eve, he will marry a couple in New York Times Square. Generation Tux will be the official tuxedo for the Big Apple’s annual ball-dropping event.

Apparently, retirement isn’t in the cards for George Zimmer, described by the Generation Tux website as “an entrepreneur, business leader and a bit of a hippie.” Says Zimmer: “If you’re fortunate to do something you love, retiring is punishment.” That may be a bit extreme but we get the idea.

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How One Entrepreneur’s Health Scare Created a New Business

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

YadaBags Inventor Janet Goodman with her husband, Fred

YadaBags Inventor Janet Goodman with her husband, Fred

Sometimes a life-changing event leads  people to start a new mission. That’s what happened to Janet Goodman five years ago.

Goodman woke up one morning with blurry vision and unquenchable thirst. Her doctor ran some tests. The results showed she had type 1 diabetes.

The news came as a shock. Type 1, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually associated with children and young adults. Goodman was 61 at the time. She also is thin, follows a healthy diet, works out six times a week and has no family history of diabetes.

“I was really upset,” said Goodman, a psychologist and business coach based near Cleveland, Ohio. “For a month, I was on the verge of tears. I went out and bought 15 books to educate myself.”

She also began looking online for something to carry the diabetes equipment she now needed to keep close at hand. The search proved to be frustrating. Medical bags were too drab. Oversized purses required a search-and-rescue mission.

From Concept to Product

Since she knew how to sew, Goodman decided to create her own diabetes carryall — one with style, fun and function. After a few attempts, the first yadaBag prototype was born.

“It made me feel better. You can’t have a depressed psychologist,” she laughed.

The product’s name comes from Seinfeld, the TV sitcom credited with the “yada, yada” phrase that’s become part of everyday lexicon. YadaBags’ Classic Purse has ten custom compartments to organize a diabetes glucose monitor, test strips, insulin, lancets — yada, yada everything.

Goodman founded her business in July 2011. Next came over three years of market research and design modifications to go from concept to product. During that time, she investigated 52 manufacturers before selecting a facility in New York City to produce the first round of bags. In December 2014, she had her first official yadaBag to sell.

To accommodate different budgets and users, yadaBags will soon introduce several new designs produced by a manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. Among the additions: a girls mini-bag, a boys backpack with a snap-in case and an organizer case for use inside a larger bag.

Key Business Ingredients

Several factors positioned Goodman to launch yadaBags. She’s a careful money manager and understands the startup process from her work as a business coach. She comes from an entrepreneurial household (her husband started a software company for real estate property managers).

From those endeavors, she knows the importance of a business plan. The one she wrote for yadaBags was 35 pages and included a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. “It helps me make decisions,” she said.

She’s also benefited from being in the right place at the right time. While attending a conference sponsored by Inc. magazine, Goodman met a television producer who became interested in her story. That connection eventually led to an appearance on MSNBC’s Your Business.

Like many late bloomers, Goodman has different priorities than she did when she was younger.

“In my 20s and 30s, psychology was my focus,” she said. “At an older age, I want to have income, flexibility and the ability to visit my three grown kids. YadaBags is becoming my 24-7 business.”

Goodman, who’s now 66, has ambitious plans for her company. She wants to branch into new industries and produce custom-designed bags for visiting nurses, seniors and people who are infirmed.

“My business is more than creating bags to sell,” she said. “It’s about helping people. It’s about adding fun and function to a person’s life, a different way to deal with the emotions surrounding chronic disease.”

Tips for Entrepreneurs

None of this will be easy but the inventor of yadaBags isn’t deterred. “You have to be willing to be discouraged and to do it anyway,” she said.

Any other advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

“I tell people to read [Michael Gerber’s] The-E-Myth,” she said. Her other recommendations:

  • Be willing to pivot and change direction.
  • Have a clear vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get there.
  • Be open to feedback. Don’t be too entrenched.

“You have to be hungry,” she added. “And really want it.”

November is National Diabetes Month. Visit the American Diabetes Association and JDRF websites to learn more about diabetes.

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Late-Blooming Mompreneur Thinks Outside the Lunchbox

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

Samantha Judd

Samantha Judd

One morning, Samantha Judd was packing school lunches for her two children when a thought popped in her mind. What if she could make a different kind of lunch box for kids who like variety? That idea led to meetings with an industrial designer – and eventually, the creation of the Flip Lid Lunchbox, a six-compartment design that separates different foods and keeps them from getting squashed.  

In this interview, 45-year-old Samantha – a single parent who lives in Perth, Australia — talks about her entrepreneurial journey, the advantages of a late start in business, how she overcomes setbacks and her determination to succeed.

Flip Lid started six years ago. How is your company doing these days?   

It’s still a rollercoaster. While the idea for Flip Lid began six years ago, I’ve only had the product and been selling it for the last 12 months. From day one, it’s been a time of continuous learning about what works and what doesn’t.

With every challenge, I’ve thought: “Just get through this and then it’ll get easier.” That has proven to be so wrong. For instance, I used to think that once I had my product ready to sell, the hard part would be over. Now I’m involved with marketing and selling — a whole new ball game with its own obstacles and learning curves. I think it’s even harder than the design and manufacture phase.

Right now, Flip Lid’s distributors include a mix of online outlets, brick-and-mortar stores in Australia and one retailer in New Zealand. Direct sales to my own (domestic) customers are a big part of the business. I have customers overseas as well.

What role has your family played in the business? Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?  

I am the only one in my family with the entrepreneurial bug. My creative streak led me to start a business selling “party boxes” (with themed cups, plates, napkins, loot bags, balloons, etc. for kids’ birthday parties) years before anyone else was doing it. My children were very young at that stage and I didn’t have much dedication to the business — so I gave it up.

A few years later, I created an online scrapbooking store due to my passion for scrapbooking. But again, I wasn’t prepared to put in the time and effort that the business needed.

With the Flip Lid Lunchboxes, my kids — who are now 14 and 16 — are involved in the process. They have helped choose colors, logos, names and are my sounding board as well.

How has your life experience helped you as an entrepreneur? Do you think you could have started a business in your 20s instead of your 40s?  

As I mentioned, I started two other businesses. I was in my 30s. Even at that age, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t see myself as anything other than a mum and wife and had no confidence in myself. I didn’t have the dedication or focus to really apply myself to one thing and to put total belief and faith into it.

The way I view myself and my abilities has changed dramatically since I became a single parent. I survived one of the most depressing and stressful periods in my life and that has helped me grow and understand my strengths and abilities. My attitude now is, “Why shouldn’t I?” rather than, “Should I?”

I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there as the worst thing that can happen is I get told “no.” I’ve learned not to take that as a personal rejection, which I would have in my younger years. Now, “no” just means to try again.

Work-life balance must be a challenge for you. Any time management tips to share?

I try to set a schedule and time limits for particular tasks – i.e., a half hour to answer emails, one hour for social media, etc. — and stick to that schedule as much as possible. Having a deadline works wonders for me. Without one, I can be prone to dawdling. That said, if my kids want to chat or tell me about their day, I always stop and give them my attention.

You’ve weathered some ups and downs in your business and your life.  How do you keep yourself going during difficult times? 

Sometimes I wonder myself but at the end of the day, no one is going to make it work for me. I have two children. If I were to crumble or give in, where would that leave them? That has been my one constant thought through all the trials and tribulations of a divorce. I had to be strong for my kids and that’s pretty much what has pulled me through so many challenging times.

I have always believed that there is a positive in every negative. Sometimes you have to look harder but it’s there. This is such a powerful thing to know. It means that — even in times of severe hardship and upheaval — if you identify that positive, it gives you hope. And hope is what keeps you moving forward.

One of your favorite sayings is, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” How does this apply to entrepreneurship?   

I think it’s best summed by a situation I encountered about four years ago. I met with a large, well-established distributor here in Australia who had links to major retail chains. He was looking to become involved in my product and get it onto store shelves. I remember being uncomfortable, as he was very direct — bordering on blunt, I felt. I stammered out a couple of questions but he did most of the talking. I decided that I didn’t want to do business with him and declined his offer. I might have been inexperienced but I knew that the deal he was offering was a pittance.

Fast forward approximately 12 months, when this distributor wanted to have another meeting. This time, I was the complete opposite. I was the one who asked the questions and made my feelings clear if I felt he was being evasive in his answers.

I reflected on what had changed. Turns out it was me! I wasn’t intimidated or out of my depth because I didn’t let myself feel that way. For someone to make you feel worthless or useless, you have to think that about yourself first. So it’s simple — don’t ever think like that.

What’s next for Flip Lid? And for you?

My product is a lunchbox, which is seasonal. The busiest times are either Christmas or back-to-school. Obviously, back-to-school here in Australia falls at a different time of the year than it does in the USA or UK. I would love to find retail distributors and direct customers in those markets. My aim is to expand internationally, as it’s always back-to-school time somewhere in the world.

I recently introduced a second product, a cooler bag that has been a great addition. I’m planning to expand my product line with new lunch boxes and drink bottles.

I have also started to create weekly lunchbox planners to inspire parents looking for school lunch ideas. After I began selling Flip Lid, I received many compliments about the lunchbox’s ample space and compartments. Soon, people started asking for suggestions on how to fill all that space — so the idea for the planners was born.

Personally, as a single mum, financial stability for my little family is at the top of my list. That’s why I’m striving to grow my business. My ultimate dream is to buy a house.

Any advice for someone who wants to start a business later in life?

Forget about age! Everywhere you look, there’s another story about a successful entrepreneur who is still a teenager. I went through a stage, albeit briefly, thinking that I was too old to start, compared with all these young kids with such great ideas. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have age limits — it only has self-belief limits. Believe that you can — and you can. I say go for it.

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