Moving too fast in December?

Yesterday, what with driving between my home and my office, I travelled 23,294,400 kilometres. It was one heck of a trip. I will tell you about it in a moment.

I was talking to the Business Warriors on Tuesday night, trying to get perspective on the anxieties most of us carry with us. Mostly regarding money.

Christmas is a harrowing money time for many self-employed people. No bonus, clients away for half the month, income is halved,… You get the point. But life isn’t just about money.

Life is a mystical wonder we share. We are each just a seven-billionth of humanity, which in turn is but a tiny speck in the vastness of the cosmos.

Here we are, you and I, stuck on the surface of this Earth, rotating at 1600 km/h. Our planet is circling the sun at 107,000 km/h. We are circling a star wondering through the Milky Way at 70,000 km/h. While our galaxy is winding its way around the universe at 792,000 km/h. That adds up to 970,600 km/h, depending on whether you’re going east or west on the freeway, or stuck in traffic.

It made me think about how we get so lost in this issue of tiny bits of money. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about small bits or big amounts. The principle is the same. Creditors chase you equally enthusiastically.

We lose all of the enjoyment in this one life we get, worrying about a very small facet of that life: money. We have this fine break looming. We can waste it worrying about something that we cannot change before the end of the month. Or we can treat it as a fait accompli, this year, and change our habits next year to avoid repeating it. Better to have some fun with the people we love and who love us. Unlike debt, they might not be here come December 2015.

January will look after itself. As long as Earth does not collide with another speck of the cosmos between now and then. Wouldn’t it be such a waste to have not enjoyed this Christmas?

I am going to have a white Christmas, as dreamt of by Bing Crosby. He forgot to mention that “white” usually comes with “cold”. Just south of Oslo it will be about -10 degrees cold. While you are sitting at your pool humming some Crosby, Castle in hand, feet in water, with the fine sizzle of medium-rare beef wafting past, I will be zipped into my orange down-filled parka, sitting at my desk dreaming of your pool. A white Christmas is not often compatible with a pool.

Is life interesting or what?

Earn Income Anywhere
Want extra income without giving up your day job? Want to work from home? Earnster.Ninja is a 12 month mentoring program for you to build online income streams. You work at your own pace. I have lived from online income for 14 years. You can too.
Read more…

Where are the jobs?

It is inspiring to complete your 12th year of schooling. The future beckons bright. And while we might not be bushy tailed at least we still have a lot of hair.

Except our parents do not think so. Parents worry. And journalists are happy to trot out trite articles each year about school leavers facing uncertain futures because formal jobs have become scarce.

Jobs have been scarce since I left school at the end of 1975. Despite that, in the forty years since then, I have yet to meet anyone who never found work.

We equate “bright future” with “stable income”. And failing that we equate “bright future” with “a job at any income”. We blame the system when we can’t find a job at a corporate trough because those seats are reserved. In my case those jobs were reserved for anyone who did not have diabetes. It’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.

We think that adversity in any form is bad. It isn’t. Adversity is not the opposite of a bright future. Adversity is the fertile soil in which a bright future blooms. Adversity is the icing on the home-baked cookie that school delivers.

Think about it. What life skills do we learn if we walk into the first job we apply for? Ten rejections teach us more than the five years we spent at high school.

If your youngster cannot “find” a job may I suggest clearing a play space in the garage? Hang up a few posters of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates :-)

They were kids when I was looking for my first job, except that they were playing with bits of wire and soldering irons. They not only made their own jobs, but they created highways that you and I have explored throughout our lives. That won’t happen if you start working at a big firm.

The best time to start out on your own is while you are still living at home. And with a smartphone the world is truly in your hand. And you can do it while churning out the CVs…

Earn Income Anywhere
Want extra income without giving up your day job? Want to work from home? Earnster.Ninja is a 12 month mentoring program for you to build online income streams. You work at your own pace. I have lived from online income for 14 years. You can too.
Read more…

Re-Starting a Business

In late 1995 I began presenting seminars to teach folk about the dangers of signing sureties. But I had no way to accept payment.

I had closed a firm in 1992. The sureties I had signed gave birth to judgments. No bank would to touch me. This meant no cheque account. In turn this meant I could not accept credit card payments.

Back then lifting yourself by your bootstraps after a business closure was very tough.

Now it takes less than two weeks and less than R2,000 to set up a business online with a payment system taking credit cards from anyone on earth. Those funds get paid to you weekly in any town on earth even if you do not have a bank account. You can do this even if your credit record smells like blue cheese in any country on earth.

This implies:
– the risks and costs of starting up and closing down can be so low that you can do it as often as you want;
– the risks and costs of operating a “global” business are lower than setting up a “local” business in, say, Cradock;
– South Africa is an ideal place from which to rule the world, with its very low cost of living compared to Europe, constant sunshine, and more than adequate supply of Internet.

What’s stopping you?

Earn Income Anywhere
Want extra income without giving up your day job? Want to work from home? Earnster.Ninja is a 12 month mentoring program for you to build online income streams. You work at your own pace. I have lived from online income for 14 years. You can too.
Read more…

Visionary Marketing

A reader named Doug sent me an email this morning asking for help.

It seems that he is in England trying to help his dad who needs urgent eye surgery at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

I replied asking how I might help. After all I have been out of South Africa for almost 10 years and I do not look so good either.

He replied asking for a R30,000 loan to be repaid as soon as he returned home. Of course I could not contact him because he had not had the foresight to set up mobile roaming before leaving home.

I asked for banking details.

A few moments later another email gave me details of an account in SA in the name of his good friend who would ensure the funds reached Doug in the UK.

This is email marketing at its best, from a technical perspective, at least. Good writing, a tug at the heart, and very fast responses.

I tried phoning Doug on the landline listed in his email signature. Only to find a rather grumpy fella who assured me that he had told me, twice already, that no Doug lived there. It seems all of Doug’s contacts had also seen his urgent request for money.

I tried the mobile phone listed in the email. An even grumpier granny told me that she didn’t even have an email address before slamming the phone down. Or, as hard as one can slam down a mobile phone. It doesn’t quite have the solid heft of Bakelite, does it?

I sifted through eight years of Gmail to trace another number for the man. I traced him to Knysna. He wasn’t in his office but they gave me his mobile number which he did not answer.

I thought the bank might want to know about this skulduggery on their digital doorstep, as it were, and I phoned their Head Office. At least, I would have if they’d answered the phone.

I tried another number, the card hotline, because it was the only other number they listed on their website that could be reached from overseas. The melodious voice was happy to help me stop a card from any of the major banks, as long as I pressed the right buttons, but could not link me to a real person who might help forestall the rush of money destined for Doug and his fathers eyes.

Again I tried the bank Head Office number, which was answered while I was patting myself on the back for answering some emails in the time they took to answer the phone.

They had me call a fine young man with whom I had a long chat about this issue.

I told him that his bank might want to forestall this fraud. It turns out that it’s not really a fraud, but rather a hustle. Nor was it the banks problem. After all, if a person puts money into a bank account without using any of the banks own systems, or involving any of the bank’s employees, then it is almost as legitimate as a real transaction. And, this farsighted fellow assured me, real banking fraud was being eliminated even as we spoke. His bank had a team of techie gurus who had their eyes wide open to any hint of wrongdoing.

Besides which, the account holder detailed in the email was most likely not even a real person. Silly me, I thought that FICA had put a stop that nonsense.

A little later my phone rang. It was a heavy breather who quickly put the phone down. And then my email peeped at me, as Thunderbird does, with a rather grumpy email asking peevishly when I might be putting his money in the bank, and why my mobile number did not work.

All I could think of during this process was, “how entrepreneurial”. This is email marketing without even a product or service, unless one counts the initial warm feeling of helping out a fellow in need. Heck he even tried to call within 30 minutes!

It’s not the kind of marketing I teach, of course. But a very tiny part of me wished I might at least have thought of it. And another, much bigger, part wished my clients focused so tightly on making each sale.

No matter how well written any email is that you get from a friend who urgently needs eye surgery, don’t blindly send money without calling him first, ideally using a number you know for fact actually is his.

Isn’t life wonderful?

Vintage Marketing Principle

In October 1984, just thirty years ago, I started my first firm. No mobile phones yet. No fax machines. Nada Internet. My sound system needed LPs. The fellows that later started Google were messing with Fisher-Price technology.

My first portable PC, aka luggable, weighed 12^kg, looked like a suitcase, and cost $3500. ($1.00 = R1.1276 if memory serves.)

When I proposed we buy a fax machine my MBA partner refused. He felt it was a passing fad. I had to force him to man the telex for a day before he relented.

Those days were quieter and slower. You could hide away for a time to cleanse your soul.

I flustered a receptionist a few weeks ago. I told her I was calling from Oslo. She patched me through to a wireless phone which she passed under the cubicle door to my startled callee while he was, as our leaders often do, passing a motion. I apologised for catching him with his pants down.

In 1984 I read a simple book that suggested I try direct marketing, writing letters to people that fit my prospect profile. If I was to compete with a firm like IBM, the author wrote, I might afford to invest $1 into marketing for every $10,000 IBM threw at it. I took this to mean I should nurture relationships with all the folk who might one day buy from me. I still do it.

Letters became faxes, and faxes became emails. The principle still works.

Most marketing spend hides heavy wastage. This short video of David Ogilvie talking about direct marketing says it all. He built the world’s biggest advertising agency by sending out letters and building relationships.

There are three basic genres of marketing.
Interrupt-based marketing, where you get a brand drummed into you by repeated adverts while you are busy with something else, like watching a program, or trying to find out about your ex-wife’s new man. It’s expensive because you pay for the number of people that see the message, even though most will never buy from you. Spammers fit into this box. As does Facebook.
Interest-based marketing, where you can search the entire knowledge-base of mankind and find the most pertinent link on the philosophy of life leads you to a video of a dancing cat. Search Engine Marketing mostly fits in this box.
Relationship-based marketing, where you grow a community of friends who share challenges for which you have answers. Kevin Kelly wrote a fine piece about 1000 true fans that shows a great way to float above the tech. Email marketing should fit into this box.

We waste money trying to find new sales prospects. Then we stop talking to them as soon as they have bought, or have said no. How silly.

Instead of thanking people for the time they were clients, we complain when they leave. That’s like my Mom no longer talking to me after I left home. (She didn’t do any such thing, and I would rather you did not mention I used this analogy.)

The tech has changed. The principles remain sound.

Business is about people. People are about relationships. It’s delightfully imperfect, as we all are, but wonderful fun.

About Choice Online…

In 1973 I needed a microscope, as one does in Standard 8 in Fish Hoek. I scoured the local library to find a supplier. I wrote to a firm in London. Their reply arrived three months later. They wanted a formal order, along with a bank draft for the device and p&p.

My Dad saw the price, went bald, and chose not to pay.

In 1999, in Melbourne, I needed a printer. At 5 PM one evening I ordered a small HP laser printer from the website of a Sydney store listing better prices than my local store. The unit arrived 16 hours later at 9 AM the next day.

This past year I’ve ordered dozens of Kindle books from Amazon. Each has arrived within seconds.

The world is speeding up and getting smaller as our reach extends further. All of my extra PC kit, like SSD drives and RAM upgrades, comes from OWC in the USA. It always arrives in Norway a few days after ordering. My pens come from Cult Pens in England. They too arrive a few days later. (Norway offers almost no choice in fountain pens, and absolutely no ink.) In both cases more choices and lower prices make this a no-brainer.

Buying online is now the norm for hundreds of millions of us. But each online purchase takes a sale away from a local supplier who has a “real” shop or office nearby.

Setting up a website shop costs much less than that “real” shop. No rental, no deposit, no contract, no shopfitting, no insurance, no security, no sureties, and no regulatory hurdles.

Zero setup risk, in other words. Yet that website shop reaches the world, while the “real” shop down the road can only reach people within a small local radius. Honestly, who is going to win this contest?

In 1998, I was invited to Mauritius to address an association of travel agents. I spoke about email marketing. Very soon, I said, people would be buying air tickets directly from the Internet. This didn’t go down well. Especially not with the SAA team who assured all present that this would never happen. Quite so.

The Internet keeps eating offline industries. Almost every aspect of travel, displacing travel agents, hotels, and even taxis. Almost every aspect of publishing, displacing magazines, newspapers, books, and all of their supporting players (printing, advertising, distribution). Almost every aspect of consulting. Movies, music, training, venues, software, hardware, …

The Internet makes it easier for each of us to buy. None of us wants to go back to being held to ransom by a local, monopoly store.

On the other hand the Internet also makes it easier for each of us to sell. The question I’m interested in is: How will this relentless rush online affect you and your business?

Hardly a week goes by without a person telling me he is safe from such intrusion. In the same breath he will complain about how tough selling has become. That’s not because rivals are bribing the buyers. It’s not just because the economy has stalled. It’s because a buyer with a PC has choices he’s never had before.

Most times I hear the echo of Henry Ford talking to an ostler.

Working from home, and why you should not…

After working from home for about twenty years, I left home last month. I didn’t want to but my basement office began to cool down as the Norwegian autumn went orange. After a particularly crispy day left me with icicles hanging from my nostrils I gave up and moved into an office down the hill.

I can honestly say that this is much better than working from home. Let me count the ways…

  • The money spent renting the space is undeniably tax deductible,
  • The money spent powering my equipment and heating the space is undeniably tax deductible,
  • The money spent buying consumables to power the workers (me) is also tax deductible,
  • My family loves all the stuff I bring home from the office that I did not manage to consume, and which was tax deductible,
  • The office gets “business” Internet access which, for some reason, works so much better than “domestic” aka “broken” Internet access,
  • The office encourages working and thinking, unlike home which is, on any given day, rent with the emotions and tears of kids,
  • The office has no disturbances like doorbells ringing, dogs barking, or spouses wanting help, making phone time a pleasure,
  • Coffee at the office does not involve coffee for the spouse and three guests, each of whom wants a different order,
  • The environment is free of all the emotions that pervade home, allowing untrammeled thought,
  • The distance from the office allows one to gather ones wits en route home, rather than sharing the minutiae of ones angst in real time…

Bottom line, I plan to stay out of the house as much as I can. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

As you can imagine, this is a bit of a problem when teaching 200 odd people how to earn money while working from home! You can do it like that, but my current suggestion is that you get some space around you.

Which reminds me. I have a few more vacancies at Earnster.Ninja. Nine fine people have left because they do not currently have the two hours/week needed to build a lifelong Internet income flow. Their circumstances have changed.

This means that you can still join this mentorship programme here. The course is self-paced. There is no one-size-fits-all “formula”, but rather a more personal support process to build the skillset you need to grow with the Net and to develop your own ideas and answers.

Here are some comments from some of the folk on board right now.

  • Graham le Sar says… I am loving your programme, and can’t wait to get to the marketing section. Something has been missing from my online marketing DNA, which I think you have the on-switch for.
  • Roger Day says…
    Keep it up! Such great info and advice.
  • Melitta Jordaan says…
    Th‎e Earnster.Ninja course content is amazing.
    Keep up the amazing brilliant work.
  • Pieter Nel says…
    I love the course so far and your videos are great.
  • Brian Moore says… I just want to thank you for simplifying the mass of internet marketing rubbish into a wonderfully easy to understand and use format. You have made it so easy for me to begin seeing the opportunities, and methodologies to making money on the internet. This is simply AWESOME!

Although we started two months ago, most Ninjas are learning at their own pace. So there’s no pressure.

If you think that you don’t have any ideas, get in line. Everybody felt the same way seven weeks ago. Most of them now have too many, and are gently sifting for the really viable ones.

Entrepreneurial Hokum??

I’ve been working on a course to teach young people how to earn money. These are people at school, or just out of school.

Somehow earning money has become confused with the concept of entrepreneurship. We don’t think about earning money without wanting to teach all the skills needed to run a factory. We assume that every youngster wants to be Bill Gates.

We then try to teach this same stuff to each person who finds himself without a job. As I see it 99% of us are either:

  • employed,
  • unemployed,
  • or self employed.

There is a huge leap from self-employed to entrepreneur.

As an aside, my great-great-great-great grandfather went bankrupt inventing the first steam engines that fired up the industrial revolution. I have carried on the family practice, although I doubt the British government of 200 years hence will grace one of their coins with my feats, as they recently did for Richard Trevithick.

Back then there were only two real kinds of formal enterprise: The Church and the Army. Pretty much all else was done by the seat of your pants. You were either born into the landed gentry or you were a serf. We have this warm vision of how how our forebears lived, but I think it was much like the kind of bare survival we see in central Africa today. Life was hard and dirty, living from day to day.

Mom was not happy plump person we see in modern adverts, baking bread filled with wholesome wheat. I suspect that early bread had more sand and charcoal in it than nutrition.

With factories came the need to gather these workers close to the machines. We began to learn about the issues of land, labour, and capital. Economists became more important to our future than the Church.

Out of that was born the concept of an entrepreneur: A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.

I don’t know too many people who want any part of that.. Yet I know a lot of people who are doing their best to earn money working for themselves.

They are self-employed, often because nobody else will employ them. They’re too old, or not old enough. Too clever, or under-qualified. Maybe each job that they apply for has 700 other applicants, all of whom are younger and better looking. Or they don’t have enough experience. Or they have too much.

I could go on, but this is not what they dreamt of as they were forced through 12 years of school looking inside frogs, or working out why Jill has three apples less than Jack before they spill the water.

Most of them, and I include myself amongst them, just want to earn enough money to live a pleasant life. I’m going to call them self-employed, because their people-management skills are good enough to manage themselves. And many don’t want more than that.

These people do not fall into the genus of entrepreneur. If you press them, you will find it’s not really what they want.

Before about 200 years ago many people earned a living as craftsmen, artisans. They built their own tools, made to fit their own height, or the length of their arms or their legs.

We self-employed build our “venture” around our skillets and comfort zones as much as those early craftsmen built their tools.

Does this make us any lesser people? I don’t think so. But I do think we should start teaching folk the simple skills of earning money first. And only then wrap it with all the complexity.

These one-person ventures comprise 90% of the business ecosphere in most countries. Not 90% of the turnover, but 90% of the listed “businesses”. There seem to be a lot of people who don’t want to employ others, but just want to get on with doing it themselves. How can we teach them those skills fast?

What do you think? Am I roasting my coffee too long, or does this resonate with you? Simply reply.

Is Business Fun or War?

I asked Google for some guidance on the issue.

The phrase “business is fun” is listed 38,400 times. The phrase “business is war” is listed 733,000 times. That’s 771,400 in total.

The fun echelon makes up 5% of that total, with the aggressive group coming in at 95%.

So what? Well, these are two basic philosophies behind our approach to business life.

Michael Gerber (The E-Myth Revisited) says that 96% of us startups close down by the end of our first decade. That is uncannily similar to the aggressive group number.

Are these numbers linked?

I don’t know, but it seems to me that I would much rather head out each day with the concepts of love and sandpits and friends filling my brain. The thought that when I practise my selling skills I walk away either with some income or with some education, and both are good. And I walk away with a friend. That’s fun, ennobling, and fulfilling.

If each sales meeting is a confrontation that I must win at all costs then I feel like a school bully. And I imagine that the person I am selling to feels like I felt as I stood at a primary school urinal while a giant from Standard 5 peed down the back of my legs. Now that I think about it I hope he did not go into sales.

Frankly, I froze up in public conveniences for years.

Maybe that’s why the person you are trying to sell to, selling an answer that really can improve his life, is as hesitant as he is. It isn’t because he’s an idiot. Maybe his legs are still damp from meeting your competitor yesterday?

I started down this self-employment odyssey in October 1984. During the thirty years since then I have spent just three months as an employee. I think that that the fun approach is, well, a life worth living.

Why Start Now?

Please click here to read why Kevin Kelly said in July this year, “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014?”.

(He is one of the most insightful people on the Web, and has written articles and books that have cast light onto my online path these past 20 years.)

His article talks about how we are still at the beginning of the beginning of the Internet. A Business Warrior friend sent it to me, “because it resonates”, he said.

Mr Kelly also says, “So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet.

I am embarrassed that he describes what I am trying to do at Earnster.Ninja much better than I can. Just in case that is misleading, let me say that I have never met Kevin Kelly and he does not know I exist.

The are no excuses on the Web. No glass ceilings. No age limits. Just opportunity. And nothing stopping you from pulling decent Internet income streams during the next year.

Please check Earnster.Ninja out. There are 41 seats left before we start next Monday.