Tag: Small Business

Make Art. Not War.

pulp fiction banana guns

The Artistic Business- Part II

Artists and Entrepreneurs have very parallel problems. Real Artists and Entrepreneurs just want to work. And both want to sell their work. Is any Art real art without someone there to appreciate it? (I wax philosophical.) Whatever your definition of real art, it is certain that real art must be shared, or the whole world misses out. And eventually someone has to like it enough to buy it, or the Artist will not be able to continue to do what they desire to do. 

Let’s imagine the world of ideas as a circle. Let the center of the circle represent commodity ideas. If each idea is a dot, the center of the circle is filled with a high concentration of dots. It is almost black. It represents ideas that are easily copied, where supply is large, and value is low. As we move toward the outside of the circle, the dots become scarce. The outer edge is where innovation is found. Each dot now represents something highly original, highly valuable, and scarce. In this area, ideas that are so cutting-edge that they may not be understood by the general population at all, and the audience for such ideas is hard to find.

Drawing a conclusion from this imaginary visual, (pun fully intended!), is that the more your push your business to the outside of the circle, the more valuable your idea will be. The challenge for Artists and Entrepreneurs alike, is to find the balance: not so different it cannot be sold, and not so common it cannot be valued.

According to Wikipedia, Paul Gauguin’s painting “When Will You Marry” tops the current list of the world’s most valuable paintings. If the outer edge of our circle represents this kind of uniqueness, then the center of the circle would represent the millions of postcards of this same painting, sold for $2.00 each in museums all around the world. Yes, even this painting can be commoditized. The current owner paid almost $300,000,000.00 for the painting just this year. True beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. In this case, true value is in the eye of the billionaire. Few could afford to add such a painting to their collection. (Even if you had the means to buy it, you would also have to afford the armed guards!)

One of the best strategies for entrepreneurs to add value to their offerings is by pushing their product toward the outside of the circle–making itan Original–with a capital O. Believe it or not, your best strategy for getting ahead of the competition is not lowering your price. It lies in creating better Art. Alas, it is also one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Perhaps you are in an industry that is so congested with competition you can barely get your big toe in the market. How can anyone dream up new ways of doing things that have not already been dreamed up? Take a trip to your local art museum. Each Artist uses the same raw materials that many other artists have used, and yet has created something that no one else has created, and transforms a few dollars of those same raw materials into something extremely valuable. No two paintings are alike, even if their subject matter is exactly the same. The best thing about the strategy of creating better Art is that you decide the style, what medium you wish to use, and just how far out you want to go. Another plus? Your competitors can become your friends because you are doing something completely different.

Real creativity is born of constraint. There is no other kind. Think this is tough? Sure. Let the pressure of competition form you and bring out the Artist in you.

Make art. Not war.

Stay tuned for more articles in the series “The Artistic Business”, all this month.

One Thing

One Thing.

by Geri Seiberling

Small business owners come from every cross section of humanity. We are all the way from PHD to a CEO without a high school diploma. From self-aware to clinically clueless. We are wealthy. We are cash flow poor. But this is what I love about small business! All Entrepreneurs are all created equal, with the same opportunity for success.

If there is anything that unites us as small business owners, it is that we are all on a journey. Every day, we are learning who we are, who we are not, what we can do, and even a few things that we never knew we were capable of doing.

Our first real problem of the journey is that we take ourselves with us. Everything we are as individuals will come out in our day to day affairs. Our Business R Us. Behind every check-out counter are business owners that are very real people with very real lives, and funny things happen on the way to the store. I may be a bit of an idealist, but I still believe that free enterprise brings out the best in the Common Man. (Can you hear the Fanfare?) Into a nearby telephone booth, and out pops Something Incredible. Some kind of force is created in hearts and minds where nothing existed before, and that transformation is nothing short of extraordinary. Yet- we still have  our own personal kryptonite.

Our second real problem of the journey is that we don’t know what we don’t know. To make matters worse, the stuff that we need to know  can only be learned in the journey. A while back, I was visiting with a small business owner with great plans. I asked if he had any mentors with whom he could share some of his great ideas to get some feedback. Zero was the answer- as in that big ugly space inside the edges of the number. So many businesses owners are out there, winging it alone, without someone to encourage and support and challenge them! But what if every small business could share one small bit of wisdom, one thing they had learned, to mentor another entrepreneur? What if you, (yes- you!), could help someone avoid one peril that you have endured? Why, we would have a virtual composite MBA from the best school in the nation! This MBA would be priceless, because these tidbits are wrung from experience, and are something you could never learn from any text book, no matter how heavy or how costly that textbook would be.

So I started to collect ‘one thing’ from every small business person I know- from startups to established entities. I discovered that there is a wealth of information out there and people who are ready and willing to give it to you. All you have to do is ask.

So, from the Small Enterprise Mentor Community of 2013, please find following a heap of gold. Free for the taking. Even if it does not directly apply to your situation, there is a take away in each one. Think about it!

Do you also have #onething that you have learned in the journey that might help another small business person get a leg up? Would you also share? Put it into a one-sentence, quick-read format and add it to the comments below. I will add a bit of guilt: you owe it to them. Someone has surely helped you, and you have an obligation to pass on a random act of wisdom to another. Someone may decide to change course as a result. Someone will profit from what you have learned. Please note- This is not intended to be a place for self-promotion, but a chance to authentically share a different kind of wealth. Please keep your comments brief and to the point. One thing. Thanks for understanding!



Q- ‘What is one thing you wished you would have known before you had started business?’


Melissa Burkheimer, Social Media Expert[www.melissaburkheimer.com]: I wish I knew that it was okay to be me and to stop comparing myself to the competition.

Julie Winkle Giulioni, Author and Consultant [www.juliewinklegiulioni.com]: I wish I’d known that I’d never again have nothing to do!  

David Clark, Koolclipz [www.koolclipz.com]: I believed spreading the word about a good product that was meeting a need would be easy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.   

Sandy Taylor, Plaza Florist [Twitter@PlazaFloristDM]: I wish I knew how the internet would change our business 20 years down the road.

Dr. Nathan Wheat, TCB Chiropractic [www.tcbchiropractic.com]: Only do something if you believe in it, otherwise people will see right through you. 

Robert Terson, Author and Consultant [www.sellingfearlessly.com]: I wish I had known that there are some people you couldn’t please, even if you handed them gold bars worth a fortune.

Jon Mertz, Author Leadership Consultant [www.thindifference.com]: I wish I had engaged managers and leaders with more experience to really learn and understand their insights and lessons learned.

Dr. R Kay Green Professor, Expert, Speaker, Author [www.drkaygreen.com]: Always plan for unexpected costs. @DrRKayGreen

Take away: Don’t forget the fudge! The fudge factor has a magical way of making everything better.

Eddy Hood, Ignite Spot Outsourced Accounting [www.ignitespot.com]: I wish I knew how to build real relationships with social media. Before I started my biz, I though social media was for spreading links to try and get followers. 

Paul Castain, Sales Consultant [www.yoursalesplaybook.com]: I wish I knew that I wasn’t doing half the things I loved to tell people I knew. Knowing and actually doing are different animals. 

Eldon Rocca, Business Process Consultant [LinkedIn http://ow.ly/m4aRu]:  Figure out what it is you want most of all, forget all the rest, and ignore that voice in your head that tells you all the reasons that you can’t.

 Take away: The most influential person who will talk to you all day, is you. So, you should be very careful what you say to you.” ~ Zig Ziglar.

Jose Laracuente, AgVision [www.agvisionsoftware.com]: If you have designed and developed a product and will be marketing that product, make sure that you understand the basics regarding intellectual property (i.e. copyright, trademarks, patents, etc. . .  . ). You want to ensure legal protection of your product ownership rights. 

Jeff Wangsness, Central Iowa Trucking [LinkedIn http://ow.ly/m4bNf}: I wish I had known how many hours were involved to try and make a small business, especially a construction related business, successful. It can take its toll on family life if you allow it to. 

Toby Tyler, Marble Works Inc. [www.marbleworksiowa.com]: Don’t wait for your product of service to be perfect. Just sell, sell, sell.

Dick Bascom, President, Bascom Truck and Automotive Inc. [www.bascomtruckandauto.com]: Avoid debt, be ready to work a lot of hours, and have enough capital that you can afford to support your family until the company is profitable. 

Mark True, Brand Warrior [www.brandhappens.com]: Understand and embrace who you are and why it’s important to your customer.   

John Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum Commercial Real Estate, WDM: When I looked at an investment, I tried to see what I would do better than the seller.  In other words, I had a plan on how to create additional value after the purchase. Don’t think you won’t have to continue to put more money in the “deal”. If you’re unable or unwilling to do so, don’t move forward.

Ben Stone, Insurgent, RPO Consulting [www.rpoconsulting.com]: It’s not about what it is that you can offer; it is all about what it is that people want.  

John Carlson [Twitter @tmasterjohn]: Buy and read The Time Trap by Alec Mackenzie. Practice the suggestions given. Learn to work smarter, not harder. 

Paul Cox, Spin Less Plates [www.spinlessplates.com/blog] Allocate time everyday to find new customers and develop existing ones. It’s more important than anything else.

Cindy Rockwell, Managing Partner Keyot LLC [www.keyot.com]: As a previous software entrepreneur, understanding the venture capital community and when to tap this appropriately for business growth. This is a definite lesson learned. (Timing is everything!)

Deb Downey, Right Teaching [LinkedIn: http://ow.ly/m4f9O]: Each day tap into your inner wisdom, which could mean a quiet time with a cup of tea, or perhaps a brisk walk to let the “stuff” settle and the creativity to surface. 

Alexander Grgurich, Fresk Interactive, TEDxDesMoines [Twitter @AlexanderDSM] Become a master of the broader business model view and understand what business you’re really in.  

Christine D’Amico, Over the Top Fabulicious Ice Cream & Chocolates [www.overthetopiowa.com]: Having passion for your products and service is great, but you must also learn to love analyzing your financial statements. 

Jason McArtor, FarmBoy [www.farmboyinc.com]  Focus on what you’re great at- but always keep learning and growing.  (Take away: Learning curve goes straight up these days. If you stop learning even for a moment, you’ll fall too far behind to catch up. 

Diana Kautzky, President [www.Deaf ServicesUnlimited.com]: Surround yourself with people that have expertise that you don’t have!!!  Use them regularly.

Tim Rooney, PeopleMation [www.speakertimrooney.com]: Business is easy but HARD: H = Have to, A = All in, R = Resources, D = Discipline,  (copyright PeopleMation)

Phil K. James, [Twitter @PhilKJames]: Before I started my business, I wish I’d discovered a way to make it scalable. Too easy to get trapped in operations, neglecting development.

Andy Merical, [Retired Small Business Guy]:  When engaging in critical conversations, first ask questions instead of making statements.

Plucky Ducks

Plucky Duck

Are you a Plucky Duck?

In 1992, a shipping crate fell overboard, containing 28,000 plastic bathtub toys. Since then, they have been sailing around the world and appearing on beaches in the most unbelievable places.  While much has been written about the Friendly Floaties, I’d like to present these little guys as an allegory of high-level business acumen.

Yes, they have provided new information to scientists regarding ocean currents, and provided another opportunity to bring important environmental issues to the surface. (Pun fully intended). But these guys are the poster child for the Power of Small.  And I’m not just trying to wring some ‘think positive’ psychology out of the allegory. It is real advantage.

Think of these three advantages alone:

Opportunity abounds

The waning economy has dumped and displaced many workers into the vast economic sea. But at that moment, hundreds of new startups were launched.  Imagine them all, minutes after they bobbed to the surface, all floating together in a friendly flotilla. They are free to do and go wherever they want, no longer hindered by the box. Don’t you love it? The big box store does nothing for creativity. Innovation is born from freedom and liberty. Opportunity abounds like never before.

Space to be me

There is always room for one more small business. Please do not view it as hundreds of new competitors. If you have carefully differentiated your small business, you have nothing to worry about.  There is room for all- even bumping up against each other. While large boats must stay quite a distance from one another, the small business, especially one that has positioned itself carefully, has all the room they need. Small business can swim circles around the big boys, under the radar, in customer service and niche offerings.

Instant adaptation

These little ducks are the ultimate evolutionary model. Darwin would have been so proud.  Currents change. Weather happens. Things a little duck cannot control. But these plucky ducks have endured storms that have brought down the most daring sailors and the largest ships.  They have instantly changed course. Recovered from the largest waves. Endured long periods of sustained sun and loneliness.

If you are a small business, you have more advantage and more help at your disposal than ever before. Got waves? Stop looking at the wave as a disadvantage and use it as a tool and an opportunity to rise to new heights and go places you have never been before.

Small is the new Big. If you are small business owner, you are one Plucky Duck.

If you have enjoyed an advantage of being small, please share it with us in the comments.


And if you would like more information about the friendly floaties, check out these sites:


The Author of Moby Duck: