You Might Want to Listen to your Critics

Les Paul

Today is the Birthday of Les Paul, the inventor of the solid body electric guitar, and he has a few things to teach us about business. Can you even guess what inspired this invention? A critic. When he was about 13 Les began entertaining customers at Beekman’s BBQ for tips. He sang, played his guitar, and his harmonica (using a neck worn harmonica holder that he also invented). The customers who were closest to him and could hear him well would pay him tips. He was a smart kid and knew he could get MORE tips if everyone could hear him.  So he figured out how to amplify his voice using a telephone mouthpiece attached to the top of a broom handle and ran it through a radio speaker.  That worked fine until someone in back sent a note that said, “Your voice and harmonica are fine, but your guitar’s not loud enough.” Les borrowed the needle arm from his Dad’s radio-phono player and jammed it into the guitar’s bridge and taped it in place. The rest is history. Les is the only musician to be included in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame AND the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
So you might want to listen to your critics. They might just give you some really great ideas. That’s this week’s Imagination Hat.

Read the full story at The Les Paul Foundation website:

Photo courtesy of

How many Businesses fail because their BUT is too big?

Lobster Hat

This week’s Imagination Hat:
Perhaps we can’t learn everything about business from Lady Gaga. But we can learn about fearlessness. If you even own a lobster hat, we can conclude you fearless. Just this morning I visited with a local Entrepreneur with an extremely good product that is struggling in business. They are busy, but just can’t grow. Unfortunately, they do not advertise. I asked her some questions and made some suggestions about some easy things to try. “It wouldn’t work, because. . . . ,” she replied, and went on to tell me about how her budget pales in comparison to her competitors advertising budgets, and therefore concluded they would not be able to make a dent. No matter what I suggested, her answers to every question were,  “we tried that and it didn’t work”, or “it would never work because”, or “we could. . . .but . . .”.  But what? I wonder how many businesses have failed because their but is too big??

I came away wondering if I have ever sounded like that? Entrepreneurs can be too afraid. Fear is a potentially malignant in businesses.  

If you are an entrepreneur struggling with risk aversion, practice taking small risks that do not matter. Try something you have never ever eaten in your entire life for lunch today. You might say, “I am at the absolute bottom, and I don’t have anything in business I can risk”.  Great! What better time to risk than when you have nothing to lose!

That is this week’s Imagination Hat!

Even If You Had All the Information in the World

book learning hat

This week’s Imagination Hat is an encouragement to learn and apply! Many Entrepreneurs believe that the reason they are not successful is because there is some elusive bit of information that they have not found yet.  Or they believe if they implicitly follow “The 10 Rules to Business Success” touted by some famous business guru, they will be successful too. Maybe. But most of the time, sorry to say, maybe not. Even if you had all the information in the world, and memorized all the content of the entire Entrepreneurship Manual, (if there were a book like this), we are not studying this stuff just to pass some university test. Think of it this way. All the information in the world will not help if it is the wrong information. All the information in the world will not resurrect a poor idea. All the information in the world will do nothing without application. And beyond all that, even if you if you did pass the university test, only solving real world problems will sustain a business anyway. Yes, observe, learn, and get the information you need. But then think for yourself–don’t follow. Apply what you know with a bigger purpose than to be some reservoir of business knowledge. Use it to benefit someone else. That is this week’s Imagination Hat!

Health Food for Business

health food for business.

Becoming an entrepreneur is such an amazing journey. In many ways, it parallels becoming a new parent. New parents live and breathe the air of anticipation before the arrival of any child, preparing, hoping, and dreaming. But the childbirth classes prepare you for one 24 hour period, after which they plop a living breathing and sometimes screaming human being into your arms, life turns upside down, and no one bothered to tell you what to do with the kid now that you have her. It can be the same with starting a small business. No matter how prepared you think you are, few are prepared for how drastically your life will change, nor does anyone coach you on how to obtain the skills you do not possess and need, well like immediately. But, as with parenting, a little naivete before you begin is always helpful. Without a little confidence to start, no one would attempt anything new, nothing new would ever get to market, and the world would be a very small place indeed. Fortunately, some things? You learn as you go.

But despite the normal levels of chutzpah flowing in any red-blooded entrepreneurial veins, it still amazes me that most companies launch without knowing what business they are actually in. How do I know this? Because of the following simple scenario: someone walks into my office and wants a new brochure. They are usually very excited to tell me about their vision for the piece. It must look sharp, with pictures of their great product. Then I ask them about what they are going to say. They get that “deer in the headlights” look. Well, they really haven’t thought about it. I ask them about target markets and brand guides. The blank stare continues.

Most entrepreneurs know how to make a valuable product, and are very product oriented. Fortunately with the clients we serve, it is most often an extremely good product, outshining the competition. Many business owners do not know how to find their story, and, therefore, cannot tell the bigger story. They do not understand the real benefit their product provides for the people that use it. They do not understand the problems their product is solving, or how the product is different from anyone else’s product. As a result, their messages are very “features and benefits” oriented, and not customer oriented. I am sure you have heard it before. It sounds just like blah blah blah. This is very unfortunate. Knowing the bigger over-arching story is just as important for the small mom and pop business as it is for the most booming company in Silicon Valley. And knowing the real benefit the customer has in working with you is foundational to your long-term success.

Please take a look at the Brand New Brand Pyramid below. (This is taken from our new training program that we are currently finalizing!). The Brand New Brand Pyramid is like a nutrition pyramid for business. Do you see that little red triangle at the very top? The word is so small, it is hard to read. I will tell you what it says. It reads “Advertising”. Do you see how small this triangle is in proportion to the rest? That little red triangle is like dessert. Yes, advertising can be sweet. (We all know our favorite commercials.) Do you see how Advertising rests upon everything else? The layers below are like the vegetables and meat and potatoes–all the things that are necessary for your business to grow up big and strong. These supporting layers are not only necessary for business strength, but necessary to create magnetic advertising messages. These layers are the health food you need to be feeding your business.


brand pyramid

Our guess is the majority of the time, your company is wanting the dessert and has been neglecting your vegetables. Maybe you even whine if you have to eat them. But if your advertising is not working for you, perhaps you need to nix the dessert for a while and dig into your veggies.

You will be glad you did. Because your advertising will only be as strong as your foundation.

The Brand New Brand Pyramid is the basis for our new training program. It is a completely free 21-day training course by email to help you, the small business owner, think like a marketer. We are working on it furiously. If you want to be one of the first to get it, and you haven’t signed up yet, feel free to sign up here.

This is How Our Show Began 25 Years Ago

It's our 25th Year

The phone rang. “Honey, we’re in business.” The year was 1988. With substantial financial reserve, buckets of business wisdom, and a rock-solid business plan, we smiled, lifted our heads, and confidently forged ahead into the future.

Not. I am being facetious.

Rewind. Scrambled noises. “Honey, we’re in business”. Kevin was clearly excited, even though he had just been squeezed out of his job by a management decision. In full disclosure, I sat down with a thump and cried. Where Kevin saw opportunity, I saw three baby birds in my nest and their little beaks were wide open. We had little reserve. It was not that we had never thought about running our own business. We had. We had talked about it for several years. It was not that I was unwilling. It was just something we planned to do later. So lets just say we were in business S.A.R.: Some assembly required.

How I envy the glamorous startup like those you read about in the business magazines. How I wish we had started with a deep understanding of our markets, a lucid and compelling vision, ingenuity, and confidence. Alas we did not. We did have some big positives. We had tactile skill and people were willing to pay for it. The value we wanted to provide was actually needed. But we also had the classic entrepreneurial syndrome: we did not know what we did not know. In a desire to keep it simple, we actually made it difficult. We jumped in and chose to get our business degree like our own reality TV show. Live. On the set. Our grade was live too. We either had happy customers, or we did not. We either had cash flow, or we did not. We quickly discovered what might get us voted off the island. No, we didn’t have an MBA, but we did have a real time education that went far beyond business school. A business school diploma is valuable, but when you graduate, technically what you have is a set of theories packaged with the falacy that you now know how to run a business. If it were only so. We actually had an advantage. We field-tested most of the theories without even knowing it. When we did actually take classes, we already knew that cash flow rarely works like the accounting textbook says it will work. We also learned to ask for help, because we did not automatically assume we had the answers. That was not a skill that comes with an MBA.

When I read this to Kevin just now, I cried again. Why am I crying now you ask? Why am I even telling you all this? Despite our ignorance when we began, here we are celebrating our 25th year. We are amazed. We are grateful- not only to our customers, but to all that have helped us in our journey. We are completely different people than we were 25 years ago. You could say we have built a small business. But the truer statement is that the business has built us.

Here is another reason I share this with you. We are looking for a few good stories. I know there are many many small businesses out there that have wonderful stories. I suppose there are a few that begin in textbook fashion, but some started because grandma dropped some mustard into the pot by accident and developed a whole new category of gourmet cuisine. Still other stories are nail biters, and others are like a sitcom. Every successful entrepreneur I have ever met has learned something in the journey that could not have been learned any other way. I am convinced that there are way too many small business owners who are afraid they are the “only ones” experiencing problems. If they knew that others had experienced it too, they would be encouraged to press on.

We would like to put together a collection of these stories to encourage all those who blaze the trail behind us. Would you share your story? Would you share how you overcame obstacles, how you learned something priceless as you grew your business, or how you surprised yourself by doing something that no one, not even you yourself, dreamed you could do? 

Small business is like a catalyst of human potential. When courage and skill and circumstance and opportunity and personality combine with Small Business, we get an epoxy of amazing things that can happen. If you share your story, maybe someone would understand that the struggles make you stronger! If you share your story, maybe someone would understand that it really is your show. You can make your show whatever you want it to be. And hey it is never to late for a remake.

Here are the details:

Please share your story below in as little as a few words, up to 500 words max. Entries close midnight on December 31st. On January 10th, we will announce our winners! Depending on the number of submissions, we will combine the top stories, to share in an e-publication for download.  

Three prizes will be awarded:

Grand Prize: A nice dinner for two on the town, here in Des Moines, and a movie tickets-tickets to a show of your choice of course. A $150.00 value. (If you live outside the Des Moines area, we will give you a VISA gift card voucher for the same value.)

Second Prize: A $100.00 Civic Center Gift Certificate

Third prize:  $50.00 in movie tickets.

Plus, your story will be highlighted in our Small Business Story Project.

Please see Contest Rules for additional information.


God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-23

Physics for Business

Physics for business.

Science rocks. I always loved it as a kid, but as with everyone, there are not enough hours in a day to study everything. So what did I learn in school about physics? If you are anything like me, not much. I’ve learned more as an adult than I ever did as a kid. (Don’t you wish we could go back to school?)

School is back in full swing and there are few kids with their physics textbooks open right now. Granted, these kids are the brightest of the pack. But whether you were in AP classes or not, whether you can wrap your head around these fantastical laws or not, the laws of physics are equal opportunity. They apply to rich, poor, the AP and the average student. They are an immutable force that will not conform to our understanding or bend for our pleadings.*

Did you know there are physics laws for business as well? These natural laws also cannot be violated. No matter how long you have been in business, no matter if you are an entrepreneurial genius or not, you cannot escape their gravitational pull.* Deep down, everyone knows what they are, but like the natural laws of physics, they are so obvious and prevalent that we rarely think of them, and we take them for granted instead.

Here are some that I have thought about recently:

Nothing exists in isolation. Physics laws state that everything in the universe has an effect on everything else. Nothing you do in business exists in isolation either, even though the various disciplines within your business favor compartmentalization. The really big problems of business are not solved in silos. They are not solved in the accounting department, or the marketing department, or the sales department. They are solved by keeping the big picture view in mind. If you are not focused on the end goal, you will discount the very advice you need in order to succeed.

You won’t move unless you are forced to move. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by some outside force. (This is actually only half of the law, but for our purposes, it will do!) One of the biggest problems in business is succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent. It is so easy to get pulled into the day-to-day affairs and neglect the most important task of working on your business rather than in it. Don’t wait to get hit by a meteorite to create change in your organization. Every business has problems, but the idea is to avoid a few meteorites by thinking ahead. One of my favorite formulas for change is this one: d x v + f > R. Explained: your dissatisfaction with your current situation multiplied by your vision of the future plus the effort you must make to take the first steps must be greater than the resistance to change.

For every action there is a reaction. This is Newton’s Third Law of Motion. “You will miss every shot you do not take”– Wayne Gretzky. You will miss some of the shots that you do take. But some of your efforts will hit the mark. If you really want to create a big bang with your business? You must also create the force to launch it. It will not happen by accident. A variation of this Third Law of Motion applied to the natural and spiritual world is “you reap what you sow”. We receive in direct proportion to what we have given. My income reflects the value I have supplied. If I am not making enough? I must work harder at creating real value for my clients.

Heat changes things. While matter remains constant, the laws of thermodynamics state that heat will change the shape of matter, and that energy is transferred at an atomic level. When the heat is on in our businesses, it changes things at the core. Don’t fear the heat. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is actually the best thing that can happen. It jolts us out of our ruts. It causes us to see the problem clearly. It causes us see opportunities that we didn’t even know existed. Don’t fear the flame. It makes you a better business.

Things move from order to disorder. This is the Law of Entropy. Left on its own, any system falls into disorder and decay. Small business takes so much more effort than anyone ever imagines that once an entrepreneur gets things over the crest of the hill, the tendency is to take a big deep breath and coast down the other side for a while. Be firmly warned, at that point, you are on the decline. A sustainable business must have systems, and continual improvement. They must be systems that calibrate themselves.

You may have other physics laws for business. I could go on and on but then you might get sucked in by the gravitational pull of my genius and you would not get any work done today. But I know you have genius of your own. I would be very glad to see your Physics for Business ideas in the comments below.

Pssst. Don’t tell your kids, but we have entered an age of education revolution.  We will never graduate. We will be continually learning till the day we die. And it is all good. We are adding to our brainpower and fueling our business energy. That kind of energy moves faster and farther in a business environment than any other energy known to entrepreneurs. May this force be with you.

*Double-entendres fully intended

Decidedly Different

something decidedly different.

Something Decidedly Different

We do our best here at Etc Graphics to play devil’s advocate with our small business clients. We really are not trying to cause any trouble. Well . . . maybe. But trouble in a good sort of way. So virtually every startup we work with will eventually hear the question: So what is your USP? What in the world is a USP you might ask? This acronym stands for Unique Selling Proposition. A USP makes clear differentiation between you and the competitor. Your competitor cannot say it. Only you can say it. Easy to come up with? No. But since we began business 25 years ago, any entrepreneur who could clearly state their USP off the cuff is still with us today. Since we want to see every small business survive and thrive, we continue to ask this clarifying question over and over again.

We cannot say enough about the value of clarity when branding a business. I’m thinking about the Iowa State Fair for an example of a strong brand. So much of the Fair is the same year to year, with certain things us locals must see and eat and do that only the Iowa State Fair can deliver. We love it for that reason alone. But each year, there is also an element of surprise. Perhaps we happen upon a live musician that rocks our socks off, or find a demonstration that shows us a way to upgrade our lives. There is always a serendipity. We love the Fair for that too. This is exactly how a strong brand should behave. Mostly predictable, but with a decided twist. And this how brands worm their way into our hearts and minds: with a strong story, a clear mission, and an element of surprise.

There are many clarifying statements that every business needs, besides the USP. Mission. Vision. Brand Promise and Position. Yet many entrepreneurs struggle with them. To the new business owner they seem unimportant– considering the other more pressing things that are on their to-do list. What these statements do, however, is provide clarity. Clarity to the rest of the world, yes. But most of all, to you. When the immediate answer to our questions is as clear as a bell, we know a company’s advertising will also resonate far and wide.

Want to write better Brand Statements for your business? Here are 5 problems “newbie” entrepreneurs always seem to have:

Going through the motions just to say “I did it”.

Symptoms: Branding Statements are like a dull knife, with unclear descriptions of the real unique value that you are placing on the table. Like a bad novel, the statement defines no real problem and delivers no satisfying solution. No one is moved, compelled to buy, and no one wants to read the sequel.

Point: Read your Branding Statements to someone who does not know anything about your business. If they do not understand what it means, no one else will either.

Writing for someone else.

Symptoms: The Statements sound like blah blah blah. They are not written in language anyone would actually use- like they were developed in a Board Room (Bored Room?). You could not deliver them as an elevator speech without sounding like a complete snob. No one, after hearing the ‘speech’, asks you any questions.

Point: These statements are for you first, others second. They help you clarify your own business. Revise the statements for you, until they sound like something you could say to anyone, like Fanfare for the Common Man.   

Feigning you are the best.

Symptoms:  Claiming to be so. Not only does this cast immediate doubt upon the veracity of the rest of what you have to say, but you may also be fooling yourself.

Point: Success is found in being the best company you can possibly be, having systems in place to ensure continual improvement, and by being completely open and honest with internal and external customers.

Too full of platitudes.

Symptoms: Almost any company could say the same thing. Contains words and phrases such as “quality” or  “maximize ROI”. The statements could apply to most any industry. Statements lack memorability.

Point: Find out why your customers buy. If you have never asked, the answers may surprise you. Your statements should contain this unique raison d’etre, and provide compelling reasons to buy that no one else can copy. Emulate yes- THAT is a compliment. But copy, no.

Being different for different’s sake.

Symptoms: Trying to be so avant-garde that no one can understand what you do at all.

Point: The point isn’t to just be different. The point is to determine, on purpose and by design, to place real value in the hands of the customer that no one else can match.

Clarifying your purpose should never take the back burner. A real mission is the “something” that fills the veins of a company. It is the “something” that is reflected in your culture and story, and infuses every product that goes out the door. It is the DNA that makes your company what it is, defined on purpose, and for a purpose. If you are having a lot of trouble refining the statements for your business, take a step back. Review your foundations and the big why of “why you do what you do”. Your statements will be clear when the reason why you unlock your door every morning is clear.

And then, you too can become decidedly different.

And now, for something decidedly different!

Win tickets to the Iowa State Fair

TODAY ONLY! Enter to win! From now till 8:00 pm tonight, enter your most unique experience at the Iowa State Fair on our Facebook page and be entered to win a pair of tickets and $50.00 spending cash! We will announce the winner on our Facebook page at 9:00 pm. Tell your friends! Step right up! The odds are in your favor!

Visit to win!

And All That Jazz

All that Jazz

Summertime is music time in Central Iowa. From Jazz in July, to 80-35 Music Festival, to street musicians on every corner at every local Farmer’s Market. To celebrate July 4th, the Des Moines symphony plays the 1812 Overture, and the hills are alive. With the sound of live cannons! Jazz in July here in Iowa is a favorite event. I have believed for a very long time, that the Jazz is a beautiful model for business management. Why? It is easier for me to show you than to tell you.

Many small business owners know they are suppose to have these guiding-light management principles in place:  Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Strategies and Tactics, USP, Brand Promise, etc., etc., and yet, at the same time, many entrepreneurs never get around to writing them. Many question the value of such statements. First of all, they are hard to write. Secondly, any experienced entrepreneur knows that trying to predict the future is pretty much a crapshoot. So they feel if they spend the time to write them at all, it will just mean they will just need constant updating, all of which is just more work! But much of this confusion happens because they do not understand what these statements are suppose to do in the first place. These Statements are actually very very simple. If you find examples online that sound like blah blah blah? Run for the hills. Because that is what these examples are. Useless blah blah blah. If your Statements are never polished enough for the public to read them? That is completely fine. They should be simple enough to be used.

Presenting the ultimate management model: the Jazz Chart. Are you a jazz fan? Have you ever seen a jazz chart? I received this chart from a young local musician. The Jazz chart holds all elements of a song together without dictating each and every move. The red circle on this jazz chart?  Do you know what these measures represent? Here it is, it is suppose to be music, and there are no notes! There are just little slashes. A jazz score does not dictate every note that the artist plays. These slashes mean anything is permissible for the player as long as he/she stays within the provided structure. So what is it that the chart does show? It shows the key structure. It shows the tempo. It shows the melody, and critical elements- the basic structure, just like the Business Statements will do. All of the actual performance is generated in real time. Jazz players improvise their way into the future, in friendly collaboration with the other players. The chart provides just enough structure to provide the ultimate freedom to be creative. The chart enables every player to be fulfilled as a musician, and yet achieve the goal. It’s a beautiful thing.


Jazz Chart

So how does this all relate? A Vision Statement is like a snapshot of what your business will look like when it is all grown up. So it’s like the song you choose to ultimately play. Strategies are the goals you set to accomplish that Vision. So a Strategy is like the chord structures and the tempo and the key signature. Tactics are the individual methods used to achieve the goals- they are like the instrumentation choices. The Mission is why you play that song in the first place. A Unique Selling Proposition is the thing you can say that your competitor cannot say. In other words, it is how and why you can play this song better than anyone else. A Brand Promise is what your product will perform for a specific customer. So your Brand Promise makes the audience glad they bought the ticket for the show.

So instead of laboring over your Business Statements, try adopting a simple Jazz structure for you business. Forget hover management. Write those Statements- even if they remain only a rough draft. It will make your life easier, not harder.

Free yourself. Just be cool. And all that Jazz.


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[]: 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 []: I wish I’d known that I’d never again have nothing to do!  

David Clark, Koolclipz []: 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 []: Only do something if you believe in it, otherwise people will see right through you. 

Robert Terson, Author and Consultant []: 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 []: 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 []: 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 []: 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 []: 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]:  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 []: 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}: 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. []: Don’t wait for your product of service to be perfect. Just sell, sell, sell.

Dick Bascom, President, Bascom Truck and Automotive Inc. []: 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 []: 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 []: 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 [] Allocate time everyday to find new customers and develop existing ones. It’s more important than anything else.

Cindy Rockwell, Managing Partner Keyot LLC []: 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:]: 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 []: Having passion for your products and service is great, but you must also learn to love analyzing your financial statements. 

Jason McArtor, FarmBoy []  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]: Surround yourself with people that have expertise that you don’t have!!!  Use them regularly.

Tim Rooney, PeopleMation []: 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.

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