Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Unsolicited Health Advice

Have you ever complained to someone about a health condition that you wish would go away, only to receive an avalanche of health advice from them? How did you feel about that?

Some holistic practitioners seem to feel that they should go through life giving their free advice to people who haven't asked for it. I don't agree. I think it's annoying to the other person, and it makes your advice seem like it's worth what you're charging - nothing.

To all holistic practitioners - wait until you're asked for help before you offer it. This is the courteous, professional, profitable way to approach healthcare advice.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Marketing Quintiles

I'm just reading another book called The Next Economy by Elliott Ettenberg. I've been borrowing so many crappy marketing books from the library lately that I had almost given up.

Then this gem of a book shows up.

Ettenberg asks us to break up our existing customer list into quintiles (20% sections) based on how much they buy from us and how often. Then we look at the top three quintiles and focus all our marketing on them.

We actually ignore quintiles Q4 and Q5 because they cost us more money than they pay.

This may sound callous, or like we're wanting to ignore poor people. But there is no correlation between quintiles for a certain business and level of income or net worth of the customer.

I can see this in my own life. I am a regular customer at the Firestone car maintenance place here in my hometown. They have had my business for probably ten years. We do regular oil changes and then whenever they find some other problem, we ask them to fix that too. They never add on unnecessary stuff and they always let us look at the old parts to see what the problem was.

So, I am probably in their Q1. They should treat me like a king. (They do treat me pretty good, but not different from other people.)

I am also a regular shopper at Giant Eagle grocery store. They have my business every week. So I am their Q1 shopper.

Then, when I look at car dealers, I have no affinity. I am a terrible customer. First, I shop around for the cheapest deal. Second, I hardly ever buy new cars, I wait until they totally break down. My Monte Carlo is over 10 years old and running great. My Dodge Dakota is seven years old and also running fine.

I must be a Q5 customer for the car dealers where I've bought cars. They should be ignoring me or even discouraging me.

Same for clothes shopping. Meijers, Wal-Mart, who cares? Whatever's cheapest. Q5.

So, every one of us is simultaneously a Q1 and Q5 customer somewhere. There is no inherent prejudice against the poor with this model. And it allows the businessperson to focus their efforts on their best customers. You've already heard me talk about Attracting Perfect Customers (best, most holistic marketing book ever) on my previous blog, this is the same concept except extended to be a bit more scientific.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Limits to the American Economy

You may have heard me say this before, but I'll say it again.

I firmly believe that the West has certain things right and the East has others right.

By the West, I mean America, Canada, Europe, etc. By the East, I mean China, Japan, India, the Asian tigers.

I think the West got it right many years ago with two things: capitalism and democracy. These two in combination have proven to be excellent growth catalysts and have truly made for a great, lasting economy.

I think the East got it right thousands of years ago with two different things: religion and healthcare. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Indian ayurveda are vastly superior systems of medicine than what we have in the West. Yes, we can put a person back together quickly after they've been in an accident. But we seem totally clueless when it comes to cancer, diabetes, all the chronic diseases and even more clueless when it comes to prevention. The only thing saving us is a general switch by Americans to the healthcare systems of the East.

I also feel that Asian religions seem more sensible than Western religions. Catholicism, Protestantism require a high degree of "suspension of disbelief" and have such an emphasis on "selling" the religion to other people, making conversions, etc. It is like religion combined with sales. It seems weird to me. I know a lot of you will disagree, but this is my way of thinking.

Having said all that, I found it very interesting to read about a comment made by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, who said that our habit of making public policy based on the short-term needs of special interest groups has created a "looming celing on our standard of living."

Are we giving up this incredible gift we have with capitalism? True capitalism is not fostered by large corporations trying to create mini-monopolies for themselves by jiggering the laws. But, unfortunately, that is what is happening, and, in fact, it is only encouraged by the Bush administration, who are brazenly making these concessions to industry without even trying to hide it. Past administrations were no less guilty of this, but they seemed to at least be a little embarrassed about it, whereas our current administration seems to feed on it.

I hope this trend reverses. I think that perhaps as the power of small business grows and the power of the large businesses weakens, we may see the trend changing. I've often thought there should be a "Small Business Party" that represents the interests of small businesses. Small businesses needs of the government are usually the opposite of what large businesses ask for. Large business wants their mini-monopolies. Small businesses want a level playing field.

But as large businesses drain away their workforce and small businesses continually scoop up those people, the influence of the large businesses will also drain away in their ability to shape policy.

What will that be like? I think we only need to wait 5-10 years to find out.

Making the Nail Pay Again and Again

My last post was about the book "Millionaire Mind." I'd like to write another post on a different idea in that book.

The author, Thomas Stanley, was getting a good-natured ribbing from a friend who built houses for a living. The friend, DD, said "I feel sorry for you. I get to work out here in the sunshine, pounding in nails, and you have to sit behind a desk, writing your books."

They got a good laugh from this, then Dr. Stanley replied. He said that every nail that DD pounded in was a form of work-for-payment. DD was paid for every nail he pounded in.

Dr. Stanley was also paid, but he was basically paid by the word. Every word he wrote was his form of work-for-payment.

The big difference was, DD was paid for each nail ONCE.

Dr. Stanley got payments for each word thousands of times, maybe even millions of times (depending on how many books sold, which in his case, was millions).

Get paid by the nail once? Or get paid by the word thousands of times per every word you write?

Would it make sense for every business person to be thinking this way? What am I building in this business, and how many times does it pay back? Once? Or ten? Or thousands?

I hadn't thought of it this way before. I've written several books, but now I think I'm going to put more effort into my future book writing efforts, as well as software that I can resell, Web services, etc. Anything that is build once, sell many.

Initial Price versus Lifecycle Cost

I've been reading the book "The Millionaire Mind" by Thomas Stanley in the past few weeks. I enjoyed his first book "The Millionaire Next Door" so much I thought I'd see what he's up to now.

The premise of both books is incredibly simple. A professor studies millionaires to find out how they handle money and how they live their lives. Then he compiles that information and writes a book about it.

The results are surprising, especially to the "typical American." What's the typical American dream? New mansion, sports cars, motorbikes, fancy clothes. That's how you know you've made it in America, right??

Wrong, says Stanley. Dead wrong. The millionaires in America are not the people you think they are. The people with the flashy clothes and fancy cars are probably not millionaires. Statistically, it is very unlikely that they are millionaires. Instead, they are people living beyond their means. They are doctors, lawyers, real estate investors who are "income statement affluent" but they don't have any net worth, because they're out buying stupid stuff like clothes and cars.

Of course, we always like to read books that affirm our own ideas, and I'm no exception. I've always thought the way to get rich was to economize and to save like crazy. My wife is the same way.

But there was a concept in the new book "Millionaire Mind" that hit me like a brick to the forehead.

He compared two ways of thinking. Non-millionaires, he says, think of saving money in terms of "initial cost." This means they try to find the product that costs the least.

Millionaires think in terms "lifecycle cost." This is a bit different. He compares how people buy shoes. Buy the cheapest pair of shoes that fit, or buy a pair of shoes that will last a long time.

He even says that most millionaires (including himself!) buy dress shoes and then have them resoled once or twice in the lifetime of the shoe, rather than immediately buying a new pair.

Just a simple shift in the way people buy things like this would cancel out so much debt in our society. It would be great.

Everything I read (or listen to in the audiobooks) in Thomas Stanley's books reminds me of the radio show that has fast become a favorite of mine. The show is called "The Dave Ramsey Show" and it is on a variety of radio stations around the country. This guy sounds like a Rush Limbaugh type of character, but he stays out of politics (mostly) and focuses on helping his callers get out of debt. He gives rock solid advice to every single caller. Some of these people are hurting bad. He helps every single one of them, with compassion and excellent words of wisdom.

Check his Website to see if the show is on in your area. If not, you can actually download a Podcast of his show (the first hour each day, not all 3 hours) for no charge, again from the Website.

If we can get more of this great information out to all Americans we can put this country on the right track again financially. Dave Ramsey is doing his part. Thomas Stanley is doing his part. Pass it on!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I Hate the Phone

My wife and I agree. We both hate using the phone.

Cell phone. Landline. Conference call. It doesn't matter. We both just dread using it.

I don't really know why. We have the latest technology in speaker phones and ear-pieces to make things comfortable.

Maybe it's the thought of interrupting someone else's day. Maybe it's having to leave a message and then wait around until the person calls back.

Whatever it is, it must be bad.

The Internet is a great way to avoid using the phone, for your customers who hate using a phone. They can go to your Website and reserve an appointment, make a change to their profile, update information, or whatever.

I'm just about to use Holiday Inn's Website to book a hotel room. Boy, that used to be a pain. Now, I just click a few buttons, enter my Priority Club number, make sure I have enough points to cover the stay, and DONE!

I hate the phone. I love the Internet. Some of your customers are probably like me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Little Good News - Global Wage Gap Narrows

It's time to dig up a little good news in the global war against poverty. We're winning.

Sociologist Glenn Firebaugh of Pennsylvania State University and author of The New Geography of Global Income Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2003) states that incomes of individuals in countries such as China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian nations are rising more rapidly than incomes in the West.

"On average, incomes worldwide are increasing at a little less than 2% per year, but China's is increasing at about 6%."

This means that the trend of the "rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer" has begun to reverse. The Futurist magazine article that I read did not emphasis the reason, but it seems obvious that global trade is the major factor here.

Outsourcing and global partnerships are making an incredibly positive impact that international aid could never accomplish.

The individuals in the poor nations are saying to us "Do not give us your aid, just trade with us." Now we are and everyone is reaping the benefits.

A stronger China means a stronger world. A stronger Poland means a stronger world. A stronger East means a stronger West.

The key to globalization is to acknowledge it, accept it and embrace it.

Still left out of the benefits of globalization? Sub-Saharan Africa, unfortunately. But I definitely have strong faith that the world will soon understand how to include these strong nations under the umbrella of increased wealth, productivity and peace.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Jobs in the Holistic Future

The job opportunities of the holistic future are many. Here are a few that I consider to be likely:

  • Naturopaths - the level of demand for these people today is unbelievable, and it will just increase. We need a person who is highly trained, but not like an MD, who can give us our initial checkups and help us with everyday problems without a high cost for an appointment. Most likely, these practitioners will operate completely outside the health insurance structure.
  • Nurse-Practitioners - another first line of defense practitioner who we see before the doctor, similar to a naturopath except a nurse-practitioner may be more acceptable to people who are stuck with a Western medical thought pattern, if naturopaths are too large a shift for those patients.
  • Midwives - this is a burgeoning profession today, and it's illegal in most states! Imagine what will happen when expectant mothers have a real choice between a sterile, dangerous hospital environment and a home birth with experienced midwives.
  • Holistic Center Managers - this is a really difficult job and is seldom done well today. Someone with incredible management skills who is a fairly hands-off manager when it comes to the medical skills but a great coach, motivator, organizer and teacher of business skills for the holistic practitioners.
  • Holistic Lawyer - the evolution from Western medicine to holistic health will be fraught with lawsuits. Western medicine ain't going down without a fight, and that fight cannot be made on the merits of drugs and surgery, so it will instead be pushed into the courtrooms. Lawyer who understand the urgency of this change and who are passionate about helping it happen will be needed everywhere, as Western medical hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies sue everybody in sight.
  • Holistic Lobbyists - the holistic economy will need to make changes to the Western medically-focused laws on the books in most states. Lobbyists who can help build grassroots movements to change these antiquated laws will be in high demand.
  • Holistic Center Franchise Builders - holistic health centers are almost completely "one off" businesses today. But there is an evolution toward a franchise model, as evidenced by the Massage Envy businesses springing up in the U.S. This will continue, and the businesspeople who are able to create franchises from their own successful clinics will profit handsomely.

I'd also like to highlight the ecologically-oriented industries that are growing rapidly today, and will accelerate in the coming years. I take these from Lester Brown's excellent book "Eco-Economy."

  • fish farming
  • bicycle manufacturing (mostly overseas)
  • wind farm construction
  • wind turbine manufacturing
  • hydrogen generation
  • fuel cell manufacturing
  • solar cell manufacturing
  • light rail construction
  • tree planting
  • wind meteorologists
  • family planning midwives
  • foresters
  • hydrologists (scientists who can find sources of water)
  • recycling engineers
  • aquacultural veterinarians (restoring health for fish in fish farms)
  • ecological economists
  • geothermal geologists (scientists who can determine sources of geothermal energy)
  • environmental architects
  • bicycle mechanics
  • wind turbine engineers

I think it's exciting just to start thinking about these possibilities, ecologically and holistically.

Don't you?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Here's a Business Opportunity - It's All Yours

I just thought of this business opportunity, and I'm giving it to you, my loyal blog reader, because there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.

The holistic retirement center.

Imagine a retirement facility that specializes in having all types of holistic treatments available to their stay-in clients.

Personal trainer.
Guided imagery.

Essentially, every client has the ability to call on any therapist as much as they want. (Maybe some limits.) The idea is that you are in this retirement home, but you just keep getting healthier and healthier, even though you're getting older.

This idea came to me when one of my clients e-mailed me to say she worked part-time in a retirement home, and got a lot of joy doing it, but usually did it for free because the retirement home was too cheap to pay for the sessions and the families of the eldery clients didn't want to pay because they thought the retirement home should pay.

Obviously, this has to be figured in to the price, but I think people would pay extra. What an incredible value-added service!

This business idea is all yours. Run with it. Let me know how it works out.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Burgeoning Self-Employment

Self-employment really seems to be climbing. I mean, I know that small businesses are taking over the economy, but I also think that self-employment is a huge part of that.

The hard and fast statistics are that small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) generate 2 out of 3 new jobs every year. This has been the case for the last five years.

That means that small business are growing, in terms of employment, TWICE AS FAST as big companies every year. Do the math and you realize that it won't take but a few more years of this before the big companies (50+ employees) will just be empty shells with advertising, brands, and marketing but nothing inside.

Neat, huh? Think of that type of economy. No big companies to speak of. Just all us self-employed geeks and geekettes churning the economy.

Business book authors have been calling this a million different names. The networked economy. The next economy. Small is better.

Look at the drudgery of big company life these days. Layoffs imminent. Job security out the window. Even companies that have promised pensions to their employees are renegging on that promise. No big company has the resources to supply pension funds and, even worse, health insurance, to their retirees.

So why join a big company again? Job security? Nope. Career advancement? Nope. Might as well start a new company when you graduate from college, eh?

I just did a series of talks at a local elementary school for their "career day." At the beginning of each talk, I went through the audience and asked each kid what type of business they would like to start. Most of them responded with something.

A car repair shop.
A beauty salon.
A law firm.

I loved it. I've promised myself to never again ask a kid what type of "job" they want when they grow up. Now I only ask "what type of business do you think you'll start?" I love the creativity that comes out when I ask that question.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What is a Holistic Economy?

I feel that the economies of North America are undergoing a major shift, due to the influence of the Internet, open source software, 3-d faxing, the upsurge in small business startups and holistic health practices.

I am seeing it everywhere around me. In my wife's family, there are four siblings, all married. Four men, two of us are in-laws.

Six years ago, every one of the four men was pulling in a paycheck. Today, only one still has "a job." My brother-in-law in Cleveland was laid off 3 years ago and hasn't found a job yet. My brother-in-law in New York was laid off last week. And I decided to start my own business in 2000 and have never wanted to go back to cubicle life since, despite a failed startup in 2002.

Baby boomers are getting laid off. And when they do, they see it as a perfect opportunity to change their life. My New York brother-in-law is probably going to start a business. I'm sure he will. The Cleveland guy decided to stay at home and be a Mr. Mom, and I think he really loves it. Videotaping all the kids' soccer games, playing chauffeur, all that stuff.

The small business revolution (or should I call it the self-employed revolution?) is taking over.

Where is the job security of the "big company job?" United Airlines just defaulted on their pensions. Will this be the last time a big corporation defaults? No way. This is a precedent and every other big organization (including IBM, where my New York brother-in-law used to work) is going to be jumping on that in a millisecond.

So what the hell is job security? I'll tell you what. It's relying on your own skills to do sales and marketing and delivery, and building something up for yourself. Using your own value system, your own blood, sweat and tears. And lovin' every minute of it.