Monthly Archives: January 2009

iTunes and Your Business — What You Can Learn From iTunes to Succeed in Your Business

I love my iPod.

It’s funny because I didn’t think I’d be an iPod person. I got an iPod a few years ago because I wanted to put all those educational audios on it rather than carting around a million CDs. I didn’t think I’d be that interested in the music part.

Why? Because I never could get the hang of the whole music thing. I have such eclectic taste that radio never worked well for me — I found myself picking stations not because they played more of what I liked but less of what I didn’t like. I almost never bought records because for the most part I would like one song from a band and that’s it.

But that all changed when I started to get ready for my first marathon. I decided maybe I better bring some tunes to keep me motivated. I started going through the CDs my husband had (my hubby has about 400 CDs, the complete opposite of me) and loading songs. And I started downloading those 1 or 2 songs from other bands from iTunes.

And now I finally get it. iTunes has allowed me to finally create the mix I want. I mean, I can’t stand country (although I have 3 songs from Faith Hill) and I got a lot of 80s and hair bands (but there’s a lot of bands I can’t stand in those categories who will never be MPW iPod-worthy). My taste ranges from Boomtown Rats to Queen (lots and lots of Queen, they were an exception to the no-album-buying rule, but no “Another Bites the Dust” or “You’re My Best Friend”) to Def Leppard to The Guess Who to George Michaels (gotta love him) to even a Ted Nugent song. (My husband couldn’t believe I put that Ted Nugent song on the iPod. I’ve often thought someone should have a contest, can you guess which Ted Nugent song I have on my iPod? In fact, I think I will have that contest. If you email me the correct answer I’ll send you a digital download of one of my info products. But I digress.)

Anyway, so where am I going with all of this? Well, I read an article about how the music industry is having a heck of a time making money now — for a variety of reasons, but one of the main ones is because they can no longer make money the way they used to.

You see, as I learned in this article, the music industry is financially based on selling albums, not individual songs. In other words, they make money by cramming albums down buyers’ throats, even if those buyers only wanted 1 or 2 songs. Now with iTunes, buyers buy the songs they want, they’re not forced to buy everything.

And the music industry is having some problems adjusting. So that means I’m actually in the majority of music buyers rather than the minority. And that’s why iTunes is making money hand over fist (because they’re allowing buyers to buy how they want, rather than forcing buyers to buy how they want to sell to them) and the record companies still haven’t figure out what hit them.

So what does this have to do with you? Well a couple of things. First off, is your business based on a way of doing business that makes more sense for you (the business owner) or your customers? If you aren’t selling your products or services in a way your customers want to buy, you ARE vulnerable. Even if this is the “way it’s done” in your industry, you’re a sitting duck for an Apple to burst on the scene and take it over. (Note, if this is you, there’s a big opportunity here for YOU to be the Apple in your industry.)

Second, are there ways you can restructure your products or services to make it a no-brainer to do business with you? Is there an opportunity to sell to your customers the way they want to buy?

Remember, buyers always have the power. They can choose to do business with you or not. It’s up to you to decide if you want to make it easy for them or not.

What the AZ Cardinals Can Teach You About Business

Brace yourself. The Arizona Cardinals, known as one of the most woeful franchises in all of professional sports (not just football), has done the near impossible and is now headed to the SuperBowl.

They’ve been the underdog in every single one of their playoff games (including their home games) — they’ve been disrespected, dismissed and disregarded. In fact, they’ve even been called the worst NFL team to make the playoffs in history. (And if they win, I suspect they’ll be called the worst NFL team to win the SuperBowl.)

Yet they’re now headed to Tampa and the SuperBowl (where again they’re the underdogs). And, they’ve done with this a head coach who is only in his second year of coaching, a bunch of no-name players and a 37-year-old quarterback everyone thought was washed up years ago.

This is just such an incredible story to begin with, but why I’m talking about it is because there is so much you can learn and apply to your business. And if there’s anything you can take away from this story, it’s that anything is possible. No matter what your business looks like right now, no matter what the economy is doing, you CAN turn your business around. This is a story of hope — no matter what your circumstances currently are, you can change them.

So, what are the Cardinals’ secrets? Let me share two I’ve noticed —

1. They don’t give up. Actually there’s a story within a story here. Kurt Warner, the quarterback, was initially cut from Green Bay, no other team would take him and he had to take a job bagging groceries. But he didn’t give up, he kept plugging away, finally got signed on by the St. Louis Rams, took the Rams to the SuperBowl twice (winning once), before being cut by the team, had a forgettable stint with the New York Giants and again looked like his career was over until Arizona gave him a one last shot (the only team willing to give him one more chance).

And look whose laughing now?

No matter what everyone was telling him, Warner kept believing in himself. Just like the Cardinals. No matter what the rest of the NFL and sports media was telling the Cardinals, they kept believing in themselves. Actually, they did more than believe in themselves, they used all the negativity as ammunition to prove everyone wrong.

The entire team refused to stop fighting. They refused to listen to what was being said about them. In essence, they refused to lose.

So what is your attitude with your business? Do you find yourself saying things like “well, the media is saying we’re in a recession so I can’t expect to make any money or grow my business now?” Or “all these other businesses are shutting their doors, I guess I better follow their lead and just hunker down until the economy improves?”

Think about it. If the Cardinals had listened to what everyone was saying about them, and had believed it, then I wouldn’t be writing this article right now because some other team would be headed to Tampa. Instead, the Cardinals decided to go down swinging. Shock the world. Prove them all wrong.

And they did.

2. They play to win. Boy, watch the playoff games and you see those AZ coaches take some pretty gutsy chances. Some of those other playoff teams, well, those teams were playing not to lose. They took no chances and played conservatively.

Those teams are all staying home. (The Pittsburg Steelers, the other team going to Tampa, also plays to win.)

You got to play to win. You got to take chances. You can’t play conservatively.

So what does play not to lose mean in business? I invite you to do this exercise for yourself, but here are a few ideas to get you started —

* Are you cutting your marketing budget to bare bones (or nothing at all)?
* Are you no longer investing in yourself (you’ll wait until the economy turns around)?
* Have you decided to start doing things yourself because you don’t want to pay someone else to do them?

If you answered yes to any of those, I would say you’re playing not to lose.

Now, I’m not advocating putting yourself in the poorhouse or running up a bunch of debt, but you have to be smart at what you’re cutting. Just doing an across-the-board slash of your marketing is not the answer. Strategically reviewing your marketing and cutting what isn’t working IS a smart thing to do (and you should do this all the time, not just when business is slow).

Deciding to do your bookkeeping right now because you want to save a few bucks is not smart. Should you really be spending hours struggling with something you’re not good at versus taking that time and focusing on your strengths and bringing more business in the door?

Yes it can feel scary. I’m sure it was scary for those Cardinal coaches when they chose plays that while could win them the game, it also could just as easily have blown up in their faces. But, I can pretty much guarantee they wouldn’t have won those games if they hadn’t taken those chances.

Remember, no one wins playing scared. Even if you fall on your face and the play completely backfires on you, you can’t stop playing to win. Because in the long haul, you WILL win more then you lose.

5 Business Lessons I Learned from 2008

As we say goodbye to 2008 and hello to 2009, I thought I’d take a moment and share with you the business lessons I learned in 2008. (Yes, it appears to be one of those lovely facts of life that you never stop learning no matter how much you think you learned the year before. But I digress.) Here are my top five lessons for your studying pleasure.

1. Gotta keep focusing on your mindset. I saw it over and over with myself last year. I get cloudy and I start struggling with my business. I’m clear and focused and my business is easy and effortless to run.

If I forget myself and allow myself to get distracted by whatever what’s going on (in other words, get in my “stuff”) then all of sudden I find I’ve attracted a whole bunch of problems (or “issues”) into my business. When I keep my focus on the positive and what I CAN control, then suddenly things get a lot better.

One of the lessons I learned is you should never stop working on your mindset. Even if it’s only 5 minutes a day, just enough time to take some deep breaths and center yourself and maybe say a few affirmations, that can be the best thing you do for yourself AND your business.

2. It’s like an onion. Sadly, this was the most unfortunate lesson I had to learn in 2008. You know all those issues and blocks you work so hard to get through? Well, guess what — they never actually go away. Yes, no matter how much you work on them and through them, they keep sticking around, just at a deeper level.

(Sigh.)

So, I’m here to tell you this is a lifelong process. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just accept it and keep working through them. And remember, even though it can get frustrating at times, the more you work on these things, the more you WILL see success at every breakthrough. The rewards are there if you’re willing to do the work.

3. Your habits are more important than you think. What do you do each day? Are you spending hours checking email and pushing paper around your desk? Do you find your days disappear and you look back and wonder what exactly did you get done?

I’ve studied a lot of successful people, and one thing they all have in common is they have pretty rock-solid habits. They get up early, they make time to read, exercise, work on their mindset, etc. Yes, they might not always get everything done on their to-do list, but every day they’re working toward the bigger picture.

I made a point this year of dumping old habits of working that no longer served me, and starting new habits. Now, I’m going to admit I’m not perfect yet. Some of my old habits still creep back now and then. And it wasn’t easy (I broke habits I had for years.) But, it was worth it. I’ve more productive than I’ve been in years, but even more importantly, I’m more relaxed, calm, and at peace than I’ve ever been.

What habits do you need to break? Do you numb yourself with too much television, Internet surfing or some other distraction? Do you find yourself sucked into drama or gossip? Or maybe you just waste time doing things in your business you could hire a virtual assistant for half (or less) of your hourly rate?

And what habits should you be doing? Journaling? Reading? Exercising? Meditating? Eating healthier? Once you start replacing your old habits with new, healthier ones, you’ll probably be amazed at what starts to happen in your life.

4. Get the right people on the right seats on the bus. Building a team, and making sure the team is the right one for you, is crucial. You can’t do it alone. You need people around you to support you and do the work you have no business doing. But you need to make sure it’s the right team for you. And don’t be afraid to make changes — sometimes the team that was right for you 3 years ago is no longer right for where you are now.

When your team is clicking, it’s a great feeling. The work is getting done, you know you’re supported and it takes such a huge burden off of you.

5. Don’t be afraid to give up control. The smartest thing I did this year was give up control of the operations of the business to my husband. If you’re anything like me, you’re not the best person to be running the operations. You should be focused on the vision and leadership of the company, plus the other aspects you’re good at. The details of whose doing what and is it getting done is probably not your strong suit. That’s why, after you’ve grown to a certain level, you need to take yourself out of that role.

Now, you might not have a spouse who can handle the operations, and if that’s the case I encourage you to look for an operations manager. While it might feel like a big leap, it’s an amazing freeing feeling. All of a sudden I have the energy and space to truly focus on what I should be focusing on, instead of getting dragged down by the minutia.