It's A Small Business World

An Innovative Marketing Campaign: Vote For Sam and Willy

Lots of people to vote out there...I saw this sign when I went to vote this morning. A local pet supply store, Sam and Willy's has innovative marketing campaign. Their platform is:

Pet owners will pay no taxes!

We can accomplish 7 years of work in 1 human year.

We have never been paid to play!

We will open millenium park to all pets.

If you don't vote our way, our associates will pay a visit to your lawn.

You want REAL change, we are it.

We can take a bite out of crime.

Trump Tower will become the new "pound"

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10 Things to do on your Business Snow Day

In Chicago, today is a snow day.  It would be very easy for that to mean "work from home day", but remember when you were a kid and what a real snow day was like with movies, hot chocolate and playing outside?

A 'business' snow day can also be something and special.  Give the phones and email a day off.  Try this:

  • 1. Sleep in late.  Go ahead.  When was the last time you slept in on a weekday and you weren't sick or on vacation?  Set your regular alarm but when it rings, smile, roll over and go back to sleep.
  • 2.Spend more time on social mediaLet this be a day for drifting off topic  and see where Facebook and Twitter take you (and what you can learn in the process). 
  • 3. Do something that you never would have time to do at work.  What is the one thing that if you had two hours to focus on would make a big difference in your business?  Go do that today. 
  • 4. For part of the day, watch a movie with your family or a nearby friend.  It doesn't even have to be Glengarry Glen Ross or Wall Street. 
  • 5. Read a business book or catch up on business periodicals that you never have time to read.  Skip over the information that you do not find interesting and highlight what you can use in your business. 
  • 6. Video chat with friends or close clients.  Connecting through video and talking only about the weather can be relationship building. 
  • 7. Teach your children to be entrepreneursAfter they shovel your place, encourage them to go out and make money doing other driveways.
  •  8. Volunteer your time to help neighbors that are stuck inThis many be the most valuable thing you do all day.
  • 9. Invite a competitor to a snow ball fightWinner takes the largest customer.
  • 10. Build a snowman to look like your ideal employee.  Take enough time to admire them before it melts and becomes a figment of your imagination.
  • What are you going to do with your snow day?

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    Forget the Bears vs. Packers: Famous Business Rivalries

    Ok, so the biggest football game in the last 70 years is this Sunday.  What about the biggest business rivalries!  Can you name some more?

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    The Speech You Can Give At Your Holiday Party This Year

    I no longer run a large company, but when I did, I always gave a speech at our holiday party.  It was a mixture of state of the union and thanks for all the effort this year.

    But what do you do this year when you're trying to look past the Great Recession and it is only slowly getting a bit brighter?  Do you pump up the team even if you did not have a good year?  Help is on the way.  In the tradition of Mad Libs, read the following speech at your party and fill in the blanks as appropriate for your company based on your year:

    "I first want to thank you all for coming to our _______ (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Holiday) Party.  I especially want to thank all the __________ (spouses, significant others, boyfriends, and girlfriends) that put up with us all through the year to make this party possible.

    This has been a _______ (great, horrible) year for all of us.  There are so many _________ (more, less) people here than last year for our party.  It really ________ (wonderful, stinks).  This _______ (warms, sinks) my heart.  We all worked very hard this year and it really  __________ (paid off, went unnoticed) by our clients.  As a result of your efforts, we ______________(grew, shrunk) the company by _____ percent (Fill in exact percentage).  This is something we can all be ___________ (proud, ashamed) of.

    For 2011, we are expecting another ____________ (great, lousy) year.  I hope to see ________ (all, some, a few) of you back here next year.  Please enjoy the evening, it may be ___________ (the last we have, a significant memory for all of us).

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    Attending the Chicago Bears Blizzard Bowl? Priceless

    I was "lucky" enough on Sunday to take my teenage son to the Bears - Patriots game.  Although I am a big fan, it was my first game at Soldier field since 1985.  I knew it was going to be a tough day when I brought 2 right handed gloves with me.  (You flip it around and it works okay).

    In all those years, I didn't realize how expensive the whole thing got:

    2 Tickets: $210 (list price on the 45 yard line)

    Parking at Soldier Field: $46

    1 Bottle of Water (no cap) and French Fries: $10

    1 Hot Dog and French Fries: $12

    1 Hot Chocolate (with take home mug): $7

    Even though the Bears stunk, as the Mastercard commercial says: "An afternoon in the freezing cold with my son...Priceless."


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    American Family Insurance Accelerates Small Business

    Finding a mentor is one of the most valuable goals for your business and American Family Insurance (AFI) wants to help.  There are a lot of free programs through SCORE and the local SBDC programs, but AFI takes it to a new level.

    A few years back with the help of Michelle Lanter Smith at Brillante Multicultural marketing group, and Dean DeLisle at Forward Progress. AFI launched a free Business Accelerator program to help small businesses.

    Recently in Chicago,100 small business owners were at an AFI symposium where they discussed marketing, sales, social media and finance.  More importantly, there are local coaches in each city available online with an ongoing curriculum and road map.

    If more companies want to help small businesses, they should join AFI in these ongoing progressional mentoring programs.

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    The Unplugged Tour: My Test Drive of the New Chevy Volt

    I have dreamed of owning an electric car for a long time.  In March, I drove a test version of the Chevy Volt at SXSW.

    Today, I was able to participate in General Motors: Unplugged Tour.  I drove the production version of this electric car from Detroit to Chicago.

    Check out the photos!

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    What Small Businesses Need from House Republicans

    In the U.S. House, it's all over.  Predictably, the House Republicans now will have a majority next year.  As an American electorate, we are an impatient group.  Can't fix the American Economy in less than two years, we want someone new!

    Here are the three things that House Republicans need to do for small business in the next two years.

    1. Free up Bank Credit.  Many small business owners are operating their business with less trade and bank credit than they had 2 years ago.  Let's not get crazy but we need to take reasonable risks here.

    2. Start Forgiving Mortgages that are 75% under water.  Real estate isn't coming back for a long time.  Properties won't be what they were worth a few years ago for over a decade.  Let's forgive these mortgages and get the owners to start spending money on goods and services that will actually grow the economy.  The government bailed out the banks so they can take the hit.

    3. Do not Repeal the Capital Gains Tax.  Small business owners work hard to build businesses.  They deserve the reward with low taxes to encourage investment.

    What do you think?

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    Collecting Ballot Signatures and Being Humbled

    A week ago, I set out to collect signatures to put Rahm Emanuel on the ballot for mayor.  Although I had raised money for candidates before, I had never took to the streets to help collect the 12,500 signatures to put someone on the ballot for mayor.

    It was a humbling experience.  I was assigned the corner of Clark and Division near the "L" stop.  Most people I asked to sign the petition to put my candidate on the ballot ignored me.  Better than that, they looked right through me.  Many crossed the street to ignore me.

    I was able to get many people to sign the petition, but what really struck me was being asked by a homeless person, "How does it feel to be ignored? How does it feel to be invisible?"

    That really hit me really hard.  How many times had I passed by people trying to get my attention or ask me for help?  Many times before, but not again.


    Random Acts of Help

    In this economy, we need all the random acts of help we can get in business.

    Last week,Jockey contacted Alexis Gladstone, manager at Johnathan Breitung Salon & Luxury Spa with an offer to partner on their Random Acts of Luxe campaign.  For one hour last Thursday, Jockey paid for all services taking place in the salon and spa.  In exchange, they talked about their new No Panty Line PromiseĀ® Luxe panties and gave away free products.  

    The evening of the promotion, clients were astounded when they went to check out and found their services paid.  They couldn't believe there was no "catch" and left in high spirits with their gift in hand. 

    More importantly, Alexis said that this promotion really motivated her team.

    "You can feel it and see it.  There is a renewed energy with the staff that seemed to be missing during the slow summer months.  Everyone is still talking about the evening. They can't believe that Jockey paid for the services of 21 clients.  Business has picked up.  New clients are booking appointments for both salon and spa services!" 



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    7 Things Learned at BlogWorld in Las Vegas About Business

    I don't go to Las Vegas willingly every year for 3 days, but I know I can learn a lot when I attend these conferences.  Here they are:

    1. In a world where many people will step over you to get ahead, the attendees at Blogworld will stop and sit down to help you.  Got a question?  No problem, someone is there to help.  Lost?  We will go back to explain it again.  I am always amazed how everyone is willing to help me no matter who they are.

    2. People don't spread "meh"!  Scott Stratten said the simple way to get traffic and traction is to write awesome stuff.  People don't spread crap.  Blog only as frequently as you can and still have great content.

    3. You are always marketing!  Tweeters and cameras are everywhere.  No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are building (or hurting) your brand.  Be mindful, careful and have fun.  People are talking!

    4. There is a difference between being popular and being influential.  Brian Solis talked about how Lady Gaga is popular but Bono is influential (he can get people to take action).  Stop worrying about the number of friends and followers you have and think about how you can get them to take action.

    5. We can learn a lot about business from examining the model of the Las Vegas Nightclub.  Limit access, form lines and sell everything the customer finds of value.

    6.  It's all about how you tell the story.  Mark Burnett, the creator of Survivor and The Apprentice, says that it is all about storytelling.  In any business, you need to tell a clear story and constantly give your prospects and clients anchoring moments.

    7. Stop planning, and just let it happen to you.  I am a big planner by nature, scheduling all the sessions I want to attend.  But as soon as you start to meet people, you need to let it all go.  This conference is all about meeting people IRL (In Real Life).  There is a lot learning that goes on between people as much as listening at sessions.  When you meet people, stop, listen and learn.

    What did you learn?

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    Rahm Announces For Mayor on Facebook

    As expected, Rahm Emanuel announced for Mayor of Chicago on Sunday.  He is beginning his "Tell it like it is tour".  In the video, Rahm talks about how the city

    - needs jobs,

    - needs to solve its budget deficit,

    - needs leadership to know what government can do and what it can't do.

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    Passing Another Small Business Aid Bill May Not Mean Loans

    The Congress passed yet another bill to help small businesses get money from banks in this tight credit market. This time, they created a $30B small business lending fund to help small banks make loans.  It also offers tax breaks to encourage business entrepreneurs and hiring employees.

    The tax cuts will help small business, but is there any hope that the $30B will actually get to small business owners?  I am skeptical.  These bills have passed before and little money has trickled down to small business?  Why?

    Banks are trying to play it safe.  The pendulum has swung so far to being financially conservative.  No banker is ever going to get penalized for not making a loan!  Banks don't want to fail and are trying to fatten their balance sheet by not making loans.

    How can the government compel the banks to make loans?

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    Economists Report Great Recession is Over: Tell That to the Unemployed

    CNN News Item: "Stocks rally to 4 month highs after economists report the recession ended in June."

    This would surprise the following Americans:

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    Bad News Chicago Bears: Change A Bad Rule

    I am a big Chicago Bears fan and I still don't get why Calvin Johnson's catch on the Detroit Lion's was not a touchdown.  I have watched the play over and over again.  It looks, feels and smells like a touchdown, how could the rules say it wasn't?

    Just like in business, bad rules need to be broken and changed.  This is the way things evolve.


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    After Daley, Who Would be the Best Business Mayor for Chicago?

    This past week, Mayor Richard Daley announced that he would not seek another term after 20 years in Chicago.  The same night, our electricity went down for 7 hours.  Coincidence?  I think not...the city is already falling apart.  Daley has been good for business in Chicago, but who should replace him?  It seems like everyone is running but here are 7 that I suggest!

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    Blagojevich is Like that Misbehaving Employee

    We haven't see the last of Rod Blagojevich.  One count of lying to the Federal Agents down, 23 counts to go.  No more than having his hands slapped at this point.

    The former governor is like that misbehaving employee in your business that you can't get rid of...

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    Do You Know Where Lottery Money Goes?

    Last year, the Illinois Lottery had sales of over $2B.  Where did all that money go?  With the money supposed to go to education (and the mess that the schools are in) it's important to find out where and how!

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    Talking Small Business On WGN Chicago Now Radio

    I was on WGN Radio today with Amy Guth and Alex Quigley, the hosts of Chicago Now Radio!

    We talked about Lou Pinella, Playboy's Smoking Jacket, Business Taxes and answered a whole bunch of call-in questions from listeners.

    Listen now!

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    Remember the Team: Saying Goodbye to Ryan Theriot

    I would always mourn when one of my favorite employees left my business.  They were not always the best or most productive employee, but I loved to have them around.  They were great to have on the team.  I felt the same way when I heard that Ryan Theriot was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Dodgers.

    Besides waving the white flag for the season, this did not seem to make a lot of sense to me.  Any organization is about team members.  How do you get the best performance out of the team, not just the individual players?

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    Playboy's The Smoking Jacket: Safe For the Office?

    Playboy recently released a new website that it dubs "safe for looking at while at the office."  While I am not sure why many employees are looking at anything not business related while at the office, I did have a look at the site in the privacy of my own home office.

    I am not sure that The Smoking Jacket is all that safe.  They have videos like World Cup 2010 Sexy Babes.  Before you watch it, you might want to slip into something more comfortable.  Lots of mud, girls scantily dressed and water.


    And lots of other videos and photos you would expect on a Playboy site.  To me, this is just a way to get people to try Playboy with links eventually going more hard core.  Don't get me wrong.  In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with this...except that like so many other sites, it should be viewed in the privacy of your own home on your own time.  We don't want office coworkers to get offended or get the wrong idea about you, right?

    What do you think: safe for the office?

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    6 Ways Lou Pinella is like Your Boss

    So the Chicago Cubs' manager, Lou Pinella is retiring at age 67.  How is your business boss like Sweet Lou?


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    SBA Honors Illinois Small Businesses

    A few weeks ago, I was the MC for a great event where the SBA honored Illinois small businesses during Illinois Small Business Week at Navy Pier.  One of the focuses of the event was lender matchmaking!

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    On Second Thought, Citibank Thinks The World Cup is for Everyone

    I blogged last week about a Spanish-only ad in a north side lobby of Citibank as an advertising tie-in for The World Cup.  On that display, Citibank included no English.  I felt that this only perpetuated the myth that only Spanish speaking people had a passion for the World Cup.

    Well apparently, Citibank was listening!  This week, they added English to the advertisement.  I guess now I can "enjoy my passion too" by opening up a Citibank account!


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    According to Citibank, World Cup Only for Spanish Speakers

    It has become very common place to find advertisements in English and Spanish in Chicago.  A particular ad may target Spanish speakers.

    However, this recent display advertisement in a Citibank Branch in Lakeview reinforces the stereotype that only Spanish speaking people enjoy watching the World Cup.

    I have watched a lot of the games.  I am following the World Cup.  Can't Citibank share the World Cup passion with people that only speak English?

    Don't get me wrong.  I am glad that Citibank has signs in Spanish, but lets use the current event of the World Cup to get all of us excited.

    What do you think?  Am I overreacting...?


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    Celebrate all Entrepreneurs on July 4th, Independence Day: Take The Test!

    I have always thought of July 4th in terms of small business.  Historically of course, it is when our country declared its independence from Great Britain.

    But, more and more, business people are forced to declare their independence from working for someone else simply because there are no jobs.  The unemployment figures released this past week show that job creation is not growing beyond the government sector.  Many fear a double dip recession.

    This is the year for many of you to declare your independence and start your own business.  But it is not for everyone.  Take my entrepreneurship test and see how you score!


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    Running Your Business on Michael Jackson Songs

    The anniversary of Michael Jackson's death was last week.  He sold more albums in 2009 after he died than in any of the last 10 years.

    We all have been affected by Michael's music.  He has had so many hits, you can actually run a small business on them.

    What songs would you add?

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    Father's Day Business Advice

    I think back on the influence that my father had on me going into business for myself.

    When I was growing up, my father advised me not to choose two career paths.  I should not become an electrical engineer.  My father had been dissatisfied with his professional career at the time and did not want me to make the same mistake.  No problem - I was not interested in science.

    He also said that I should never become a sales person.  It was a job with unreliable pay.  My father had always hated pay related to risk.

    After college, I began to work for IBM and my father loved it.  When I made the jump to start my own business and failed twice, my father told me to call IBM to see if I could get my job back.

    So what will I tell my children about small business? 


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    If the Chicago Blackhawks Players Were In My Business

    The 49 year wait is over and the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.  My favorite part about watching the playoffs was how I got to know many of the players' personalities just by watching them on TV.  Each player has a role on the team and I thought...what role would that player be if they were in my small business?

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    Like the Blackhawks, Small Business Owners have Superstitions too!

    As we head into the final (we hope) playoff game for the Stanley Cup, we are all (at least the men) wearing our playoff beards.  Superstitions in sports are infamous as a result of movies like Bull Durham.  From wearing lucky socks to not stepping on the foul line, it is part of the game.

    But superstitions in business are also part "of the game."  Before that big sales presentation or customer call, I always make special preparations.

    Here are some favorites I've heard over the years:

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