Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The best source of support for entrepreneurs

You don’t need outside resources from the government, from non-profits, or from a rich uncle. Most  of the important resources you need are inside of you. 

Yet another choice

Another choice: either you are living in a sparse area, the place in which you have lived for a long time, or you moved there recently (or plan to do so as soon as you can).

The two situations need to be approached very differently.

If you are a long-term resident, you have a support network, you know how to get things done, you are familiar with all the local resources. You are less likely to step on the toes of locals.

If you are a newcomer, you have the outsider (lateral-thinker) advantage, you are not encumbered by “that’s how we do it here,” and you probably have access to outside resources.

Good businesses for the old-timer:
Something that caters to locals
A venture that involves hiring locals

Good businesses for the newcomer:
Internet sales
Something exported to the type of people from your old neighborhood
Tourism-based businesses

I often see newcomers establish businesses that sell to locals. But they don’t understand local needs, networks, old alliances, or who is still angry with whom for a diss in middle school. Sometimes they get caught up in old feuds they don’t understand.

Often I see people who have always lived in the town. They want to start a business, but cannot think outside the box. They try to do the same thing they have always seen done. So they compete with an established business, dividing up a market barely large enough to support one business.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The next decision

Let’s assume you are participating in this forum because you are ready to make a decision (refer to 11/23/2010 posting), then you must make another decision. 

You have one of two motivations for starting a business. Either you need cash now, or you want to build an empire. “I wanna’ be my own boss” is in the second category, while “my day job don’t pay enough” is in the first category.

The first category comprises those we sometimes call necessipreneurs.

Into our town last year moved a couple. The husband’s company had transferred him to the area. After they arrived, they learned that the job had been placed on hold for three months later due to the recession. A few months later, the position (along with the position he held before the transfer) was dissolved. They could not find suitable employment, and they were running out of cash.

So they opened a restaurant. Food services was not particularly a hobby or avocation, but a way to earn their own daily bread, and they thought they had some good recipes. The dining options increased in town, and the couple was able to pay the rent and utilities at their apartment. Many people around the world are following this pattern.

Necessipreneurship is a very solid reason for starting a company. But it requires a different methodology than building a Google-sized endeavor. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Economic Development

Small towns need to encourage entrepreneurship.

Economic development often means, unfortunately, bribing big companies to build a factory in the bribers’ town. You spend unconscientiously to woo, you offer tax breaks and incentives, you beg.

That model was never effective. Even larger cities like Phoenix and Salt Lake City spent huge efforts to woo consumer finance companies to open call centers in their cities. So all the high-paying executive jobs remained in New York, and the minimum wage phone jobs were moved to the West. The cities gave up more than they gained, and they used resources that could have been used for creating real jobs.

But now the model is completely unrealistic. Why would a manufacturer move their factory to your town instead of to coastal China? Your town is already hollowed out and Guangzhou is dynamic.

Courting companies is begging for a piece of the pie. Creating companies is baking more pies. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Really bad news, Really good news

What an exciting time to be alive. What an exciting time to start a business. Especially in a rural area.

Every 500 years or so, civilization seems to implode and reinvent itself. We are in the midst of that now.

About 500 years ago, Reformation and Renaissance (rise of trade within Asia).  Roughly 500 years before that, the Roman Empire completed dividing into Christian and Islamic domains, leading to the cultural divide of today (Chinese civil wars and succession of dynasties and peak of Chinese technological advances). And 500 years before that saw a shift in power from the Mediterranean to Northern Europe (Japan began the pattern of adopting best practices from abroad). The beginning of Christianity in the 500 years before that, with its power to unite Western civilization (Silk Road uniting ancient world and inventing modern world). Of course this is somewhat of an exaggeration, but some sociologists find merit in the concept.

So what will happen this time?  Will secularism become the undisputed state religion?  Plagues or famines? Will we feel protracted wars are needed to wrench away from clutches of progress?  Will population shifts reverse, causing rural populations to start growing again?

Just think of the marvelous possibilities.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why you are participating in this forum

You read this blog for one of two reasons:

1) You want to make a decision
2) You want to avoid a decision

Either option is acceptable. But you need to analyze which is your reason. Because that is the first decision of the forum.

A hint that you are in Category #2: you think you need a detailed, bullet-proof business plan, protected by a nice binder, before you begin. Hint you might be in Category #1: you have tried building a business that either succeeded or failed.

Please don't ignore this issue as something trivial to fill blog space. Think for 7 minutes, decide where you stand, and move forward.

Dealing with your city council

This Steve Pressfield quote is profound enough to type here:

"Most of us define ourselves hierarchically and don't even know it. It's hard not to. School, advertising, the entire materialist culture drills us from birth to define ourselves by others' opinions. Drink this beer, get this job, look this way and everyone will love you. What is a hierarchy, anyway? Hollywood is a hierarchy. So are Washington, Wall Street, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. High school is the ultimate hierarchy. And it works; in a pond that small, the hierarchical orientation succeeds.... When the numbers get too big, the thing breaks down. A pecking order can hold only so many chickens. In Massapequa High, you can find your place. Move to Manhattan, and the trick no longer works. New York City is too big to function as a hierarchy. So is IBM. So is Michigan State. The individual in multitudes this vast feels overwhelmed, anonymous. He is submerged in the mass. He's lost."

For you, the Rural Entrepreneur, the implications are important. 

First, you are tied to a hierarchy. In the big city you would be free of hierarchy, but here you have to be part of a system, less free.

Secondly, you know where you stand. You can move your place in the pecking order, but in either place you are not lost. 

So city entrepreneurs can be more creative, but have a harder time getting things done. 

You musn't allow yourself to be tied to the small-town "system," but you can't ignore it, either. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Your new strategy: Dawn of the Dead

Maybe the key to your success in the countryside is not by trying to build a dotcom better than Silicon Valley can. Maybe it is to do something excellent in a dying industry.

Trying to compete with world-class entrepreneurs might lead to competing on price. Instead, be the best at something no one else wants to do. Check out this Business Week article, especially #9:

Rugged survivors in Dying Industries

R U afraid of success?

This sounds crazy, because everyone wants to be successful.

But this fear is in fact one of the biggest barriers to success. 

This might be you:

If I become successful, will I become a jerk, like my jerk father was?
Will I become unable to cope with the increased demands?
Will people find out that I'm not as smart as they thought, that I'm a fraud?
Will I stop spending time on the hobby I feel so passionate about?
Will the increased success cause me to die of a heart attack at age 47?

This is not an issue only for those of us in the countryside. But we particularly need to face it. Today. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Plan B

We discourage thinking too much about "Plan B," because should you really plan on your "Plan A" failing?

But Plan B is usually what happens. Plan A is based on assumptions, numbers, conditions that are incorrect. So you have to be flexible to morph into Plan B. And not feel badly about it.

But a backup plan would also be based on incorrect assumptions, so better to form Plan B as you move along. Start out with Plan A, then shift as needed.

You might end up with a completely different business, but that puts you in good company. Some of the greatest businesses of our age also did. Completely shifting business models after startup is actually actually a business model. It is, in fact, typical.

(See Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reasons enough to fail

You want to start or expand a business, and possible excuses are numerous:

Too few customers in the countryside
Customers have no money anyway
Can't find appropriate building/real estate
Can't obtain bank loan
Investors don't understand your potential
Stimulus money all went to the wrong people instead of you
You are a single parent without family support
Not enough savings to survive the start up stage
Current day job is overwhelmingly, monopolizing of your time and energy
Too many kids
Unsupportive spouse
Frail health
Can't give up health insurance benefits
Bad back
Fear of selling
Fear of rejection

No university education
Remote location limits transportation options
Someone took your brilliant idea
Starting a business could lead to financial ruin (at least now you have a steady income)
Timing is bad; after Christmas would be better
In-laws disapprove

Now that they're all out in the open, can you let go of them and move forward? You must set a deadline for yourself and remain conscious of the Resistance (see the earlier posting on Steven Pressfield's book War of Art).

A lot of people have faced excuses better than the ones above and ignored them and became moguls.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Competition for Worst Marketing of 2010

If you have a lousy product, and if you are not creative enough to sell your product, you can use other tools. Racy ads, manufactured events, phony positive reviews made by employees, psychological manipulation.

Speaking of manipulation, Toyota wins our competition for worst marketing of 2010. "Just because you are a parent doesn't mean you have to be lame."

If you are struggling to provide for your family and drive an older non-Toyota, then you are a horrible parent. You bring shame to your children. Go now, sell a kidney to pay for the down payment on a Toyota Land Cruiser, and we will stop embarrassing you in front of your children, who are also watching our TV ads.

That is the latest scheme from the company that has been reporting questionable quality statistics for years. Shame on Toyota.

Negotiation Power

Something I told my students today in Negotiations 315:

Knowing the theory behind negotiation success is very important. That's why we spend so much time on it during the semester. Understanding the tools will make you a much more powerful negotiator, and that is why we focus on developing those.

But if you really fail in a negotiation, it will probably be because of you. We all have personal weaknesses, anxieties, and foibles that can trigger spectacular failure. Two examples:

- Inability to stand up to bullies. Most children have either experienced being bullied, or felt sympathy for someone being bullied. When an adult uses verbal abuse as a tactic in business communication, some people respond with fear. "Just make it stop!" the voice in your head screams. You do whatever it takes to get the person to stop, i.e. giving in to their demands, so you can return to your comfort zone.

Bad form.

- Inability to ask. I once worked for an evil man, who took money and self-respect from anyone who allowed him to. But he taught me an important thing. "You don't get nothin' in this world without askin'," he would say. He asked for ridiculous things. He had no inhibitions. So he became super wealthy.

Most of us hate to be rejected, so we don't ask for anything.  Letting go of that fear can multiply your success ratio. You don't ask for a better salary, a better seat at a concert, a better interest rate on a loan. All because Clarissa Mayfield turned you down for a slow dance in middle school.

Clarissa doesn't remember the incident, and you shouldn't either. So let go. And become successful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We goofed up

My wife's business, the Nauvoo Quilt & Textile Co.(, made a mistake last week. One of the fabrics we sent to a customer was wrong. It happens about .00000002% of the time. This is our public confession. On the internet. Public flagellation.

 We want to reach 100% reliability. No mistakes, ever.

But to do that, the passion would be sacrificed. The reason the business is successful is that my wife feels passion about reproduction fabrics, quilting, and clothing. She has taste in fabric procurement that people appreciate. Should we throw out the reason for existence to achieve zero defects?

No, and your business should not either.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

We repeat: the world is not ending

As mentioned a few a few posts ago, no one in the world knows what the short-term future holds for the economy. We could be headed for grim times. 
But as we've also discussed in this forum, you shouldn't worry about it. Seth Godin agrees:
"If everyone around you is sure the economy is tanking, that the end is near, that time is up and the company is headed for the tubes, it's almost impossible to find a creative solution."
Seth was a marketing rock star, but he has become appreciably more than that. Remember this quote when you feel nervous about the economy. Fear temporarily weakens your creativity muscles. 

How Wall Street Trading works

Here is how many front-office functions work. A young person enters a training program, then is assigned to a desk.

Let's say a lad is assigned to an equity trading desk. He is gradually allowed more and more responsibility as he learns the ropes.

Then one day he has reason to believe he can win big on a trade. He has a hunch or gets a lead. So he bets the farm on that trade. He goes for it. He puts all his eggs in that basket.

If he wins, he is a hero, everything he does after that is considered heroic. The person that successfully does that most often moves to the top of the pyramid.

If he loses on his first trade, he moves into consulting or goes to take an MBA, then moves into consulting. Or he moves to the operations department.

This is a huge overgeneralization. But maybe it is a good model for your business if it is stuck. Bet the farm on one big trade. If you're already failing, throw long into the end zone.

Wall Street Exposed

From where we sit, Wall Street is hard to understand, so can seem suspicious. I have interviewed several thousand Wall Street executives and employees, so have a hint of how it works. It is both simpler and more complicated than most people think.

First, investment bank offices are divided into three parts: front office, middle office, and back office. Front office is composed of sales and trading, and origination. Back office is the support functions (settlements, operations, HR). Middle office people are supposed to monitor and keep in check the front office (risk management, compliance, legal). The relationship between front and middle is adversarial.

The bank is also divided into primary markets and secondary markets. Primary markets are the people who create securities, and are often referred to as "the investment bankers." They do the IPOs, the M&A advisory, bond issuance, and those sorts of activities. In secondary markets, they trade the securities. They either make money by trading (prop traders): buy low, sell high. Or they trade for customers, and earn a fee. Those two types of traders are not supposed to talk to each other.

The relationship between investment bankers and the traders is sometimes competitive. They compete for resources. Which business will the bank focus on? That depends on the bank's culture, but it affects the budget and prestige enjoyed by each group.

That is how the industry is organized. It is not one giant, perpetual conspiracy. And it is only part of the finance industry.

In general, Wall Street bankers are a lot smarter than we think they are. And not nearly as smart and they individually think they are.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Marketing Art

Need a way to FUND your artistic project?  Check out this site:

Success Definition

In interacting with readers of this blog, I've learned that motivations vary for starting businesses in rural areas. Some want to find a way to earn a living that allows them to live in an agrarian environment. Some want to do something remarkable, to delight customers, and the location is irrelevant. Other motivations have also become apparent.

Regardless of the basic motivation, I feel affinity with all of you.

All of you, go forth, and succeed, according to your own definition!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Whither the economy?

Here at the Nauvoo Commuter, we are still monitoring the economy. We don't know any more than you do.

Recently I've talked to Wall Street investment bankers, prop traders, global hedge fund managers. They don't know more than you do.

One group believes the U.S. is headed for hyper-inflation, with dire consequences for the planet. The other group is convinced that we are headed for deflation, as the current recession continues. They are nearly opposite scenarios.  And yet both groups have compelling stories to prove the accuracy of their predictions.

Does it matter? You need to move forward with faith in the future. Hedge, but don't procrastinate because of the stock market levels.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Getting things done

As I've mentioned before, an upside of rural entrepreneurship is that you have fewer distractions. So you can actually get something done.

But it still requires discipline. We often end up Shaving the Yak, a term for being sidetracked, then looping. (Joi Ito and Seth Godin have good posts on it.)  I did it tonight.  At the end of a long day, I want to watch a DVD of the John Adams miniseries, but I can't find it. I look to see if it fell behind the TV, and notice how dusty it has become and pull the TV out to clean. I notice another DVD that fell, and go hunting for the case to which it belongs. Now it is time to blog and too late to watch anything.

I should have noticed the pattern early, because I had done it earlier in the same day, when I had started sweeping the floor, and noticed something needed adjusting....

So you see, even though we have fewer distractions, we can easily create them. You need to print an invoice (the single most important activity you do: billing), and the printer is out of toner. You decide to order more, but want to order more office supplies, so you can save on shipping, so you look for the Office Depot catalogue, then remember that if you order online, via the Delta Airlines website, you can earn mileage. Free mileage!  So you look up the password for logging onto You realize it is time to change all your passwords. Need to discourage identity theft, you know. Three days later, you still haven't mailed the invoice.

Don't get distracted. Send invoices.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The last two blog posts

Those last two posts...  The point was that we need to take risks. Our culture is increasingly risk averse, and I am concerned about that. Earning an MBA, reading success books, and many other activities are no longer designed to give us a boost, but to help avoid failure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Can success books be your model?

In the success literature, more and more we are seeing a examples of sports psychology, new age* platitudes, and biographies of people who successfully climbed corporate ladders. Some of it stretches isolated examples to mean too much. Just look at the self-help section of any Barnes & Noble. 

One thing I don't understand: a lot of the genre claims that money is not important. (Perhaps this is a revulsion against the Michael Korda philosophy of the 1980s.) Some can be summarized as: "Money doesn't matter... find your own definition of success… if you follow these principles the way that Joe Montana did, you will be rich like Warren Buffett."

A particular peeve of mine is writing that uses sports training examples and laudable incidents on the field to teach how to succeed in business. These analogies can be useful, but the connection is very, very thin. Success in business requires far different skills from those required to throw a ball well. It doesn't translate well. For example, football technology has hardly changed in a century. When it has, all competitors have simultaneous access to the same technology. In sports, the playing field is not continually changing shape, surface texture, slope, or softness. Players are not traded between teams mid-game.

"Game Rules" prohibit change. Sports stars don't need the ability to predict how the field shape will suddenly change. And even in sports, the old maxims don't apply. Everyone now works hard, so merely believing in oneself is no longer enough. To consistently win, one needs to want to win more than anyone else wants to win AND also must be extremely gifted. Similarly, in business many are doing their best, so having more heart, trying to "win one for the Gipper" is insufficient. Perhaps sports analogies can only be used for highly regulated industries such as utilities, which are not allowed to compete, but that would not be useful because sports is all about competition. 

Some of the books out there are valuable. We have profiled some of them in this blog. 

* Example: new Age philosophies of "find your path" and "listen to your heart" seem to mean "do whatever you want." Isn't that a return to a hunter-gatherer society? Is that beneficial to society in general? Shouldn't we should be working hard to fulfill human needs, for which humans will compensate us? People won't pay for really bad poetry, so I have opted out of poet as a career option. You heart might lead you to play XBOX all day, but can a revenue model come from that? 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Goals Bite

When I left home to find my way in the world, I approached my father for advice on the night before my departure. It is probably a strange time for most people, picking up a new life stage while simultaneously letting go of another, and unsure you should be doing so. As we stood in the kitchen, both leaning against different counters, both filled with that combination of nervousness and excitement that fills the air on such occasions, he scratched his chin. 

He said, "if you are ever in the final 10 seconds, down by four points and on the fourth down, and you have possession of the ball, then THROW LONG."

On many occasions I have taken his advice. Sometimes the metaphorical ball hits the metaphorical Astroturf, and I lose. Sometime it is caught by a metaphorical receiver, and I get one dance with the prom queen that night.
Like many of you, my home is full of self-help books. I also have read more than my share of "business success" books.

Adam Smith taught, or least we interpret his teaching to be, that in a free economy we are all benefited when people work hard and innovate to make a profit. Society in general is rewarded. But here is something we often ignore: those profit seekers must take risks, and that means some will fail. The Law of Averages declares that not everyone can be The Best. But those who do succeed are amply rewarded.

This means that some pain will be involved. In societies that have had things good for a long time, perception of risk focuses on potential downside more than on potential upside. On the other side of the coin, people in countries with nowhere to go but up focus on positive potential. 

In American society, we don't want to take risks anymore. So we do two things:

1)       Lobby for regulations. Large, established companies which cannot grow their market or take more market share can only stop competitors from becoming strong. That's what burdensome regulations do. On CNN or on CSPAN, regulations might sound like lifelines for the downtrodden, like earth-graders which level the playing field. But in most cases, those proposals fundamentally un-level the field. They favor current entrenched players, especially oligopolies. (Some economists dedicate their lives to this topic, but it is outside the scope of this article.)

2)       The other thing that both established and potential players are doing more and more is to decrease risk by increasing the likelihood that a possible venture or career choice is a sure bet. We have a model in observing what securities firms do: Goldman Sachs lowers the risk created by proprietary traders by hiring risk managers, mathematics experts who can quantify risk and monitor it and shift it. If they can do it, why can't I do it for my career trades? So I try to quantify everything. I find a perfect model and turn it into a formula and replicate it. Andrew Carnegie religiously used personal goals to succeed, so that's what I'll do. Steve Jobs comes up with better ideas and motivates others to help him implement those ideas. I certainly want to be like Jack Welch, so I'll mimic him. I read their books. I try to turn his way of doing business into a formula for developing my leadership skills. 

But Steve and Jack and Andrew have qualities I don't have, and they worked in different situations. If I copy them, I will not do what they did. What Steve Jobs did has already been done. 

But if I copy him, I'm not really trying to succeed. I'm just trying to avoid failure. Mimicry is a risk-avoidance strategy. And that is an increasingly common problem, with potential cause our society to melt like the dew before a July sun. 

Starting a business might end in failure. You can't eliminate that risk. Just try something, work so hard that occasionally you want to cry yourself to sleep at night, and then see what the result will be. If you don't become a mogul, then your turn will come next.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A not-so-momentous week

We are excited here at the Nauvoo Commuter. The party that traditionally supports small business is back in power (controlling part of one branch of government). But will it make a difference?

Here is a prediction. In two years, the economy will still be weak, and people will blame the Republican-held House of Representatives. They'll be thrown out, and we'll return to business as usual, and that will  not make a difference either. Not because "they're all the same anyway," but because the economic forces we're facing are much bigger than Congress.

The fact is, government makes almost no difference in improving the economy. Sometimes (once or twice in a century), Congress will get out of the way and let us succeed, but normally they get in the way regardless of intent.

The U.S. economy and the global economy are experiencing fundamental shifts. We are experiencing growing pains. The stimulus plan has lengthened the pain (just as it did under FDR, in Japan during the 1990s, and in every other case it has been attempted), but the pain would be here regardless of who sits on Capitol Hill.

Just ignore it. Don't wait for jobs to be "created." Make your own way. You can vote for those who will be more likely to get out of your way. But the best stimulus is the stimulus of your own making.

So if you're still sitting on the sofa waiting for a politician to make or break you, you need to turn on the television and forget all of your dreams.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Maybe this Blog is Irrevelevant

When we say "rural business," we are talking about many things. let's categorize them into several types:

  - franchised businesses serving local residents (auto parts, fried chicken, convenience stores)

  - independent businesses serving local residents (we'll include those belonging to associations such as IGA or Foodtown and some petrol service stations)

  - the internet-based direct sales business operated out of a spare bedroom, including eBay sellers

  - telecommuters offering software development, writing and editing, internet mystery shopping, or a host of other activities, as long as they are not on the payroll of a company owned by someone else

  - manufacturers (if located in agricultural regions)

  - farmers

They may all be entrepreneurs, with some exceptions:

  - the franchise owners who follows the corporate manual for all operations and marketing decisions, and adds no value through applying self-generated creativity

  - someone who sells, via eBay, some junk found in the garage, but doesn't do it as an ongoing business

Can this blog address the concerns of all those people? Let's review the blog's purpose:

"to encourage entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs, and the communities that support them."

We can address them all. Let's keep it up.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Raising Bunnies

The home office, discussed yesterday, is only one solo-preneur option for rural residents.

Here's another inspiring idea that would fit into an agricultural lifestyle.

Check out Ambika Conroy's business. She worked in New York's fashion industry. Now she raises Angora rabbits, goats, harvests the wool, and creates amazing Angora products. Check out Ambika's site at Ambikaboutique.

You could have done this.

Huge Caveat

So you want to be a work-from-home star? The Nauvoo Commuter is here to encourage you.

My goal is to help you succeed in some rural-based entrepreneurial venture, and a home-based business is a good option. We are not selling a program, just encouraging you to get started.

But a lot of people are selling programs, some are enticing you with scams, and others want you to stuff envelopes.

Of all such be wary.

Start your own business. Don't pretend to start your own business but really working for someone else. That is particularly true with multi-level marketing. You take 100% of the risk, yet you don't have independence. (If you were independent, you would be able to sell Nuskin and Herbalife at the same time. Try it, and Nuskin will steal your business from you. They'll fire you, and take the organization you built for themselves, without compensating you for any of the time and money you spent. The justification is probably covered in the contract you sign when you join.)

Do it for real. Don't pretend to start a business by being lured into someone else's dream or into a scam.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Soliloquy on Working From Home

A couple of decades ago, women began to complain that men should not be the only ones to leave home each day and go into the workplace. They could do it also.

But historically speaking, the idea of adults leaving home each day and working somewhere else is a very, very new concept. It began in the industrial revolution. From an evolutionary standpoint it is not natural. Throughout human history, almost all men and almost all women, in fact, stayed home and worked. All day long.

And children worked alongside them. Children respected the work their parents did. So they respected their parents.

Then men left, their work became abstract, and children lost respect for fathers. The same thing is now happening to mothers.

Working from home is not a new concept. It is a return to the way we did things for thousands of years. That is the realization I had when I first set up a home office in 1997.

Working from home is challenging. But for many people, it reconnects them with their natural state.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hotizontal Villages

I've been arguing for years that our neighbor is not the person next door. It is the person who shares your interests.

Jesus was right, and it has huge consequences for your business. Maybe the town you live in only has 236 people, including the kid who actually away at army basic training. But you have neighbors all over the planet.

About 20 years ago I was in Switzerland doing a hotel inspection. One of the workers angrily approached the group I was with, yelling in Suisse-Deutsche. No one could understand him, so could not address his concerns. But I understood him. "We just walked through a pile of dust and we're tracking it onto the freshly-laid carpet."
I understood, not because I know German, but because I had worked the construction industry in a past life, so I understood his mindset. He and I lived in the same village. The connections between people are horizontal, stretching across the map, rather than vertically within our individual countries.

Someone in your neighborhood feels a closer bond to a person living 1,462 kilometers away who shares a fascination with Star Trek. They reside far apart, but live in the same trekkie village. Another resident of your community is a Lakers fan and you are a Bulls fan, so you live in different villages. Truck drivers can gather at specific diners and commiserate, rather than futilely trying to strike up conversations with pharmacists down the street when they return home on the weekend.

We no longer have social classes. They've been replaced by Avocation Strata.

So don't try to push those geographically close to buy something they don't want. Find the like-minded people around the world and sell to them. UPS awaits your beckon.

The Marketing is the Product

Toyota is one of the best marketers in generations. They start with reliable products. They distribute well. They trust their American subsidiary to promote the way they see best.

Everyone knows Toyota's quality is the best. But is it?

Perception is reality. Quality surveys are based on REPORTED defects. And Toyota owners report fewer defects. 

I have seen friends purchase Toyotas with major flaws and take them back to the dealer, just to be told that "we can't find a problem." So the new owner responds, "Toyota doesn't make poor quality, so I must have been wrong." Selective perception. The emperor has no clothes. The car whistles loudly over 50 mph, and they turn up the stereo. Nothing negative reported to JD Powers. 

(They also benefit from the fact that Americans are far more forgiving of foreign companies than they are of their American competitors. A family member's infidelity is far more serious than a stranger's indiscretion in another town. That's how we believe.) 

If you want to consistently knock the ball out of the park, year after year, as Toyota has done, you need to be like Toyota. You need to reinforce. Every marketing message from Toyota is a pat on the head. They tell you one thing: you made the right decision in buying a Toyota. After a decade, you believe it, so you buy another Toyota and tell your friends to do the same. Reinforce, reinforce. 

Having a low-cost manufacturing base also helps. So be like Toyota:

1) Gouge suppliers in ways that would make Walmart blush. 
2) Monopolize fleet sales in your home country so that you achieve economies of scale before you've exported one model. 
3) Silence dissenting voices.

Also, remember that it took Toyota decades to achieve mogul-hood. So you also need to stop being American and seeking the get-rich-quick solution. Stop flipping and start building a foundation. Mogul-hood takes a LONG time.   

Control. Cut costs. Reinforce. Set 100-year goals.

Midwest Manifesto

I think it is time to repeat my Midwest Manifesto. 

The Midwest has many remarkable companies, and should not concede to foreign competition. The tide is turning back in our favor.

People in the Midwest are smart, industrious, and prudent. Through those traits, we have built lasting companies. 

Our remaining need is to capture insight and skills those companies need to progress to the next level by hiring additional executives and specialists from outside the region.