How Money Is – And Isn’t – Made In Business

“Nothing Happens ‘Til Somebody Sells Something

MoneyI mentioned inside, that one of the people who visited with me at a recent book signing, Tripp Braden, does some work with Warren Buffett, and a lot of work in the private equity investment world. He and I compared notes, as I have a fair amount of experience with client-companies sold and bought by private equity investors.

He agreed with my chief observation: they are usually even more clueless than the operators of the businesses they acquire about marketing. Most of their improvement forays have to do with cutting “fat” and squeezing profits out of reduced costs, cutting a whole up into pieces and selling some, synergy with other things they own, and multiplying what’s working by pumping in capital.

In other words, bean-counting and re-arranging of piles of beans. They often bring a religious belief in the value of replacing entrepreneurs with “professional management.”  Apple is a great example of the fallacy of such faith – after forcing Jobs out, they later had to go beg him to return and reinvigorate  the moribund sloth the professional managers had turned the company into. Innovation and marketing had been de-balled in his absence.

You can only go so far re-arranging beans.

It’s worth noting that when Lee Iacocca saved Chrysler from the edge of extinction. He did cut executive-suite costs with a bloody axe, he did re-structure company debt, but he also hastily created new products – including the first American-made convertible put out in years and the mini-van loaded with cup-holders,  and he grudgingly stepped forward as commercial spokesperson to sell the new, radical warranty he wrote. If you ask him, as I once did, personally, what saved the day more than anything else, he says: selling. Of course, Iacocca was a renegade his entire career.

Since the 2008 crash, and now, you see a lot of TV and print ads for gold – gold bullion and gold coins, as well as silver, and numismatics, pitched as reassuringly tangible, hard assets you can hold in your hands, store in your vault.

The best of the TV commercials are those starring the actor William Devane. The guy who largely invented the whole business in the 1970’s was James Blanchard III, and if you can find a copy of his autobiography, Confessions of a Gold Bug, published in 1990, I strongly urge reading it, for many marketing, business, financial and life ideas. Blanchard was an ultimate Renegade Millionaire. A visionary entrepreneur. And a phenomenal salesman – of his ideas as well as his business.  (Blanchard influenced me, by the way, in my evolving approach to my business. Specifically, check pages xi and 78-79 of his book.)

I’ve just completed a manuscript for a forthcoming book in my No B.S. series, No B.S. Guide to Brand-Building by Direct-Response, co-authored with the Iron Tribe Fitness guys, including chapters from several others, and an exclusive interview with Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

As I worked on the book, and completed the final chapter, The Mouse And The Bunny, about Disney and Hefner, I was forcefully reminded that almost all great and powerful brands were raised up and driven by individuals who were both visionary leaders and outstanding salespeople, representing their enterprises. This is true of brands that bear their names, like Disney, or brands that don’t, like Apple.

I’m not fond of his late-life politics, but Warren Buffet is a terrific salesman for Berkshire-Hathaway. Would you even know of the company were it not for Warren The Promoter?  Businesses and brands without a human face, a visible driving force, a visionary, and a convincing salesperson – ideally, something of a Barnum –  operate under extreme handicap. Achieving giant size, the need may be relieved. But it’s still a handicap.

Mr. Gamble of Proctor & Gamble said, “Any fool can make soap. It takes a genius to sell it.”  What Renegade Millionaires know, that so many others do not, is that nothing happens until somebody sells something – and they’d better not depend on somebody else to do the selling.

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– By Dan S. Kennedy, serial entrepreneur, from-scratch multi-millionaire, speaker, consultant, coach, author of 13 books including the No B.S. series, and editor of The No B.S. Marketing Letter. FOR A SPECIAL FREE GIFT FROM DAN FOR YOU including newsletters, audio CD’s and more: visit:

Two Faces in the Mirror

mirrorRichard Branson, the already successful Branson, has had to close down businesses that were sucking money down drains with no end in sight. Arguably, he made bad decisions and bad investments. If he lives long enough and stays active, he’ll do so again. Long after the big crash that almost did him in, the freshly, super-successful Trump has been involved with failed real estate projects in Vegas and in Mexico, been sued or threatened suit by investors, and more recently his licensing and speaking deal with the company using the Trump University brand has bitten him in the ass. Presuming another decade of active entrepreneurialism, these won’t be the last sour real estate projects or the last ass bite.

Disney has, recently, bought companies it later, quietly killed. Put out John Carter From Mars and The Lone Ranger.  Completely screwed up its California Adventure theme park and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars re-tooling it. Examine almost any shiny success, and on its flip side, you’ll find grimy failure. How do you feel about that fact?

Zig told the story of the cat hat stepped on the hot burner, then not only wouldn’t ever jump on the stove again, but wouldn’t even come in the kitchen. This is  how most people feel about and react to failure, particularly embarrassing and humiliating or expensive failure. If they experience it once, they never want to go in the kitchen again. One punch in the nose is all it takes. The truth of success scares the shinola out of most people.

There are also, always, the exceptionally successful individuals who are, in various ways, failures personally. Houdini failed at almost nothing, except control of his own ego, which very directly caused his premature and unnecessary death. There’s a T-shirt being sold, with picture of Bill Clinton, that reads: “Remember when YOUR biggest problem in Washington DC was MY stain on a blue dress?” It’s funny, but it also speaks sadly of the stain on a smart and talented man.

My friend Gene Landrum has written intelligently and eloquently about the dysfunction of the extraordinary achiever, and if you haven’t read any of his works, start with Profiles of Greatness.  Most exceptionally successful people are not even close to “superior” – in fact, most are horribly flawed, but manage to rise above their own foibles.

My own history includes a private graveyard of business failures and disappointing projects, most given the swift sword, a few dying slowly and agonizingly;  financial embarrassments;  and some number of people with permanent negative opinions about me. I am not universally beloved nor consistently and certainly successful.

To hit some business highlights, going backwards, there has been mail-order ice cream (which sounds funnier than it is), a high-priced be-an-expert academy that failed to launch, a comprehensive how-to course for inventors no inventor wanted, a retail store: the Self-Improvement Center ahead of its time. Just these added together, a million bucks, give or take, down the drain, a bit noisily.

There was, way back when, both a corporate Chapter 11 turned 13 and a personal bankruptcy. There are four business experiments underway now and I’m confident at least some will become tax losses buried in the back yard. Of more micro nature, were I to try and list and briefly describe all the mis-steps, mistakes, misadventures and misfortunes, it’d be best to do it like an old-fashioned encyclopedia, with a thick volume for each letter of the alphabet, the entire set consuming several shelves. And I’m not done making messes. I say: success is cooked up in a messy kitchen.

If your success game plan features being right 100% of the time and never making mistakes or your fragile ego demands never getting egg on its face, you’ll be playing the game for only a short time, timidly, and without distinction, or you’ll rise high and fast only to fall just as fast and crash as hard as can be.  The ironic fact is, the game is won by losers.  If you aren’t floundering or outright failing at something, you probably aren’t doing much of anything. When you look in the mirror, if you don’t see a winner and a loser, the guy or gal you do see isn’t playing the big game.

You have heard the cliché: success breeds success. It does. But what you don’t often hear is the other, equal truth, that failure is the other parent of almost all success.  The goal of success can never be to avoid failure, but to manage it, minimize its harm, extract its lessons, leverage it in every way possible, rise above it, and know that it will be forgotten and made irrelevant in time.

Everybody knows that Babe Ruth struck out more than he hit home runs. Most superstar athletes perform similarly. Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots in his pro career. 26 times, he had the game winning shot in his hands, missed, lost. He said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life – and that is why I succeed.” By his own words, he acknowledges seeing two faces in the mirror.

How To Lead & Live A Disappointing Life (Told No, At Every Turn)

Rejection in BusinessDuck, duck, oops. By now, the Ducky Dynasty controversy sparked by patriarch Phil’s raggedly voiced, Biblical based anti-gay answer to a GQ MAGAZINE interviewer’s question is old news. I wrote this when it was dominating media. A&E pretended they were shocked, despite a record on Phil’s beliefs dating back at least ten years. That same week, a PR person (of all things) 146-charactered a tweet taken as racist by many and stupid by many more when waiting to board a flight, and she was publicly, “loudly” fired before the flight landed. Anybody with any business, brand, career, money or reputation to protect who tweets at all is dumber than a pile of manure.

But these days, people like ‘ol Phil have to be “on guard” at all times or know they put their empires at risk by voicing their opinions. My speaking colleague of 9 years, Zig Ziglar, had exactly the same position on this item as Phil, but never, to my knowledge, pushed it as in-artfully. Nor would he have agreed to be interviewed by GQ. (Reminds of President Jimmy Carter’s asinine agreement to being interviewed in Playboy, where he made a remark that created a firestorm at the time.)

Whatever you think about Phil’s statements, you should know that your opinions or beliefs are every bit as offensive to a whole lot of folks. A society where opinion is dangerous is a dangerous society indeed. Of course, Phil and his family are rich, they have militantly loyal and enthusiastic fans, and this may wind up making them richer, not poorer. He handled it perfectly.

Several people sent me Phil’s book, HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY,  as a gift, and in it I found a story, that is absolutely typical and representative of two truths behind most Renegade Millionaires. One, what my friend Glenn W. Turner called “being intelligently ignorant” – too dumb to know something can’t be done, and doing it, often to the shock, dismay, and occasionally, rage of “smarter” folks. Second, living undeterred by being told “No”.  So, here’s how Phil “cracked” Wal-Mart for his duck calls…

“So, one day I pulled my old truck in front of the first Walmart I saw, walked in, and said, ‘Hey, how many of these duck calls do you want here?’ The clerk laughed and told me, ‘We don’t buy duck calls. Son, you need to go to Bentonville.’ (Wal-Mart corporate headquarters). I drove down the road and tried the next few Walmart stores.…finally, one of the store managers said, ‘You got an order form?’  ‘Nah, I just figured you could pay me out of petty cash.’ ‘Well, I’ve got a 3-part form I need to fill out,’ he said. ‘I’ll try six of them.’

When that store manager filled out his 3-part form with WALMART at the top and wrote down ‘six duck calls’, I walked out looking at my copy and thought – I’ve got me something here. When I got to the next Walmart, I showed the store manager the form and told him, ‘Walmart’s stocking duck calls. This last store ordered six.’ He said, ‘Give me what you’ve got.’

Eventually, Phil had sold $25,000.00 worth into Wal-Mart stores. Finally, the chief buyer at corporate called and wanted to know how this had happened, and Phil told him. The buyer said, “Let me get this right. You mean to tell me you’ve been driving around in your pick-up truck and convincing our sporting goods departments to buy your duck calls without even conferring with me, who’s supposed to be doing the buying for the whole Wal-Mart chain?”

To his credit, the buyer gave Phil a letter officially authorizing him to keep doing what he’d been doing and okaying store managers’ purchasing. About a year later, Phil finally went to Bentonville. Storewide sales averaged $500,000 a year for 20 years, and opened doors at Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops, etc., and went a long way to making Phil and his family rich. How many Phil’s do you think accept the first no?

This mirrors the story of Kenneth Cole, and the way he launched his shoe company – which I’ve told often. Everything else swirling around Phil now is irrelevant. Just focus on this specific aspect of his thinking and behavior: that normal and customary ways of doing things are for other people. This  is how big things get done and big money gets made.

Most environments – Wal-Mart included – have a bureaucratic rule book in place, bureaucrat keepers of the rules; a stultifying process that preserves their power and deliberately renders all others supplicants. Most everybody accepts this, most are confounded by it, some fight their way through it like the lone cat of the six stuffed into the same burlap sack tied shut and dumped into the water trough, who claws and bites and fights his way out. (This has long been a common form of population control of cats on farms.)

A few people refuse to accept this. A few ignore it, out of intelligent ignorance, renegade nature, and an instinctive or conscious recognition that being in a tied-shut sack with competitors, submerged in water, and fighting to be the only one to survive is an undesirable game, even for the victor. A whole lot of what I’ve done, do and teach about marketing, selling, entrepreneurship is all about never getting into or being put into the sack with the other cats, submerged in water.

At every turn, the person of accomplishment and wealth was and continues to be told “No”, “You Can’t” and “That’s Not How It’s Done Around Here”.  Metaphysical-leaning thought leaders teach that this is how “the Universe” tests the truth and depth of each individual’s desire:  a long line ahead of them, in front of a thick, wood door with no bell, through which timid knocking is never heard, and to which a few react: why bother with the damn door at all?   Test of character and will or simple fact of life, you can decide. But life is most profoundly and consistently disappointing for those who honor bureaucracy, who accept No.

– By Dan S. Kennedy, serial entrepreneur, from-scratch multi-millionaire, speaker, consultant, coach, author of 13 books including the No B.S. series, and editor of The No B.S. Marketing Letter. FOR A SPECIAL FREE GIFT FROM DAN FOR YOU including newsletters, audio CD’s and more: visit:

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