16 much read business classics

I read an article recently about the best business books, and they were all recent publications. Nothing wrong with that, although some of the best books on the subject were written years ago.
The following books, written at least 10 years ago, the oldest written in 1926, have stood the test of time. They have been read my millions of people and are still among some of the current best selling books in the world. They range from academic to practical. They use a variety of styles. But each is worthy of a place within all our bookshelves and should be read by anyone serious about business – regardless of your age. If you've read them in the past, maybe it’s time to blow the dust off and read them again.
George Samuel Clason
Dale Carnegie
Napoleon Hill
Peter F Drucker
Og Mandino
Zig Zigler
John A Tracey
Michael E Porter
Roger Fisher, William Ury
Peter Senge
Jame P Womack, Daniel T Jones
Al Ries, Jack Trout
Richard Koch
Jay Abraham
David Allen
James C Collins
There are hundreds more, many by some of the same business and thoughts leaders above, but many, many more from authors you may not be familiar. We live in a wonderful time, we can learn from so many sources - both past and present - and many of those resources are just a click away.

So you're over 50, get over it

Full disclosure, I just had a birthday and turned 53.  So, when I say “get over it” I’m talking to myself as well.  I’ve read several articles on LinkedIn and other places about being 50+ and the workplace.  Whether it’s about getting a job, a promotion, shifting careers, going to work for a startup – doesn’t matter, there has been lots of press and lots of activity around the subject.
Now, I believe there is age discrimination, it happens on a daily basis, there is no denying the fact.  But facts are just that, facts.  They mean nothing until you decide to take those facts and do something about them.  We don’t need more armchair quarterbacks, we need people with experience, willing to lead.  So, with that said, here are some things those of us over 50 need to remember:

You were never as good as you remember
Fill in the blank with what you believe of yourself.  I could be your looks, your personality, your ability to manage, to complete a task, to manage a team, etc.  You were never as good at as you think you were.  It’s human nature to believe we were better at something in the past, especially when someone is saying “you can’t do that anymore”.  I was never as good looking as I remember, never as brilliant, never as clever as I remember.  I have a very high opinion of myself – we all should, because you don’t who will – but the “good old days” were not all good.  And the final shot over the bow, if you live in the past, you won’t look to the future.  No matter how good you were, you can be better tomorrow.

Most people will dismiss you
But guess what, they dismissed you in your 20s, 30s, 40s and now in your 50s.  So what?  The majority of people will dismiss you for a thousand reasons.  Your age is only one.  People dismiss because I’m a man, I’m white, I’m older, I’m a father, I’m a marketing guy, I work(ed) for a huge corporation, I didn’t go to the right school, I don’t live in the right area of town, I don’t wear the right clothes, I wore boots and jeans, ad nausem.  Well, those are all facts of my life.  I can’t change one of them.  If you live your life waiting for everyone else in the world to approve of you, well, it may take a while.  It’s not worth worrying about all the people that will dismiss you, it’s much more important to continue looking for those people that won’t.  They are out there – there is a perfect job, group, friend, organization that wants YOU.  Our job is to find them.

Lose the entitlement
We are not “owed” anything in life.  Just because I have 30 years of work experience doesn’t give me a pass to on the next job.  Our experience means nothing unless we can translate that into what it means to that next job, that next position, that next employer.  Own your experience and be proud of it, but don’t expect it be the thing that catapults you to the head of the line.  Entitlement is a disease, don’t allow it to infect your life.  Expect the hard road, challenges, and setbacks.  If you have learned anything from your 50+ years on this earth, it will be disappointment and heartbreak.  Don’t turn those into something dark, push through them and use them as stepping stones to create the next success in your life.  You aren’t owed anything, but you can own what you know and your experiences – they have value for someone, just keep searching for them.

“ifs and buts were candy and nuts …”

I’m a big believer in the impossible.  I have seen it over and over again in my life.  What was science fiction a couple decade ago, is science fact today.  The world we live in today, is both beautiful and terrifying – we can communicate instantly with people around the world, but we are afraid to let our kids (or possibly grandkids) play in the front yard.  Our goal as the 50+ crowd is to be willing to change, to move the ball down the field, to become better every day.  Our value is in our experiences AND how we can use it to enhance our companies and our careers.  Tell your stories and share with the world what you know – but also be willing to be the student, to learn, to grown, to climb to new heights.

Quit looking at your past with rose colored glasses and embrace TODAY with the vibrancy of your 20 year old self, the drive of your 30 year old self, the confidence of your 40 year old self and the calm of your 50 year old self. They are all you, integrate them and see what happens.

I say “Get over it” and let’s show the world what we are really made of – let’s be the next surprise in this age of surprises.  

I'm probably going to post this to LinkedIn, but you never know, I may just keep it here for those Easter Egg hunters that find it.

Great Idea | Creative Commons Photo Sharing

I just ran across a great site and thought I'd share.  It's called Photo Pin and it provides photos for use on the internet through the creative commons license.

Love it or hate it, there are people copying images, graphics and words on a daily basis.  There is nothing you can do about that - it's going to happen, so if you publish, you just have to decide to site back and let it happen.  Getting worked up about is not work the stress in your life.  You are much better off deciding to site back, let it happen, and if someone else is wildly successful with your "stuff", then find a lawyer and sue them.  It happens all the time in our crazy, cut and past world.

But, since we have Creative Commons, why one not use it?  Why not go ahead and give other talented individuals some exposure and credit for what they do.  I'm not a graphic artist or a photographer.  But, those things make a blog posting more interesting - and catch the eye.  So, I go out on the internet and grab a photo or graphic and use it.  I try to attribute, but get rushed, or forget where it come from, etc.

This site allows you to search for images via keywords.  And then use the CC to attribute ownership of the image.  Easy, and I like easy.

So check it out, it may become your new best friend with blog posting.  [example below]

photo credit: alongfortheride.♥ via photopin cc

5 keys to being a successful product marketing professional

When you say you're a Product Marketing professional, do people ask you what that is? Or possibly confuse it with Product Management? How about those people that don't understand where the lines between the traditional marketing function, sales and creative/promotions begin or end.
I've been in this game for years, have seen it from multiple angles and there are five distinct activities a Product Marketing professional much master to become successful. Now my background is primarily in IT Services (managed services, outsourcing services, consulting, advisory, etc.), so when I'm saying "product", I'm really talking about services - regardless, the five activities are the same for any product or service - high tech or low tech - it's merely the nuances of the particular "thing" being marketed.

Key Activity 1: Market Analysis

If you don't know your target, then anywhere you shot will hit the mark. The first key activity is Market Analysis - and it's more than just doing a quick internet search or making a bunch of assumptions. It is a systematic process of determining where to spend a limited budget (even big budgets have limits) to do two things: (1) expand your market, revenue and client base and (2) deepen your existing client relationships.
As a Product Marketing professional, it's your job to understand the market - past, present and future. Domain knowledge is helps, but more important is having the mindset of a treasure hunter, looking for opportunities to solve problems.
Get this one right, and your job is much easier with the other activities.

Key Activity 2: Service Strategy

Through your Market Analysis, you've discovered market areas matching your service criteria. Moving that analysis to the next phase, requires understanding how these opportunities can propel your organization towards it's goals. Translating a big number such as the total value of the market to what is available to your company, taking that available market and matching it to your company's financial goals, understanding if you can credibly enter the market or if your sales teams can be trained and motivated, are all part of the overall strategy of the service.

Key Activity 3: Service Planning

Service planning is where the "rubber meets the road". As a Product Marketing professional, you know the market, the competition, how those match to your specific company and now it is time to start planning the service for release to the market. Working hand-in-hand with Product Management, you start putting together what features, functions and capabilities are included. Working with sales, you determine the best positioning and what value will resonate with clients. Other key areas of involvement come from engineering, delivery and operations. Service Planning is that key activity where managing relationships and working with cross-functional teams will be the driving force of success or failure.

Key Activity 4: Marketing Programs

As marketing professionals, this is where most of us shine. Taking something from an idea to market, seeing it mature into a real product, is exciting. Now it's time to talk about it; using a variety of tactics, from traditional "push" advertising to engagement and social media. We match our messages to our audience, we tell the story of the service, we begin the process of gaining trust with those mostly likely to purchase. One of the areas which gets overlooked by many companies, especially in the service industry, is "testing, testing, testing". At the point of introduction, although we believe we have designed the right "plan" - it is merely an assumption until we release it. Once released, the Product Marketing professional has to be willing to follow the path of least resistance, and change course as required. I believe we only have ownership of the end goal, the path is dictated by too many forces to control, flexibility is the watchword as we manage our services.

Key Activity 5: Sales Readiness

In my background, the route to market was through a sales force - the problem is, a sales force only gets excited after the first "win" - it gets easier with each successive win. They have limited time to sell, are compensated for closed sales and want their lives to be as easy as possible. Our jobs as Product Marketing professionals eliminate as much "friction" in the transaction as possible - make it to engage clients and close the sale. To do that, we also have to ensure our clients understand the service, the benefits and how to purchase. If there are no sales, you don't have a real product - it's still just an idea.
There you have it, the five keys of to being a successful Product Marketing professional. You may love one or two, but you've got to master all of them to be successful.
In future articles I'll explore each one in more depth.

McDonalds vs the 9 Year Old | I blame the mom

First of all, I thought you had to be stock holder to speak at a shareholder's meeting and I also didn't think that minor actually "owned" anything in that same way that someone over the age of 18 can "own" something.  So my first problem with this whole mess is ...  Why was she speaking in the first place?

I'm going to assume that it was all setup, and guess who had to start the ball rolling - YEP, the mom.  I can't believe McDonalds started calling shareholders and asking if they had minor children that wanted to ask CEO Don Thompson a question.  And if the Investor Relations people at MickyDs are worth their salary, if they did, they should have vetted what was going to be asked.  So, I'm assuming the mom had it all set up.

Next, even if my child (unprompted) asked for my help, I would probably have said no.  Hell, a 9 year old can't even have a Facebook account (per their user agreement) - so why would I want to subject my small child to both the financial media, social media, other adults in the audience, and of course the back-stabbing elite of corporate America?  Once again, I blame the mom.  She was naive in the most naive way - she thought the question, if asked by 9 year old, would be met with something other the full force of a Fortune 500 Global business that earns billions of dollars and rakes in profits for the same shareholders in the audience.  Hell, these companies scheme and conspire to squash adults - what did you think would happen to your child?

Last, unless you are prepared for the worst of people, don't expect the best of people.  We live in a world where I can say anything, do anything, be anything, or do nothing - and still be "celebrity" of the moment.  Social media has given everyone the ability to shout out their opinion from their virtual soap box, while remaining anonymous.  They won't say it to your face, but give them a computer, keyboard, and internet access and get ready for the body blows.  I'm sorry both the CEO and this 9 year old have become punching bags (or heroes) for people around the world.  But once again, I blame the mom for starting this whole thing.

She needs to step up and take responsibility - the buck stops with here.

Springwise | Ideas for your business brain

Springwise | New business ideas for entrepreneurial minds

Airline commissions books that can be completed in flight time

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In Israel, QR code application form only scannable by students with high IQs

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Where Are They Now? SOLARKIOSK

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Concept store enables customers to make and share their own digital ‘look book’

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Spokeless wheels bring full suspension to foldable bikes

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Science experiments for curious kids by subscription

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Search tool offers medical information personalized to each user

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Pinterest-style site integrates social sharing, digital identification and online shopping

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Online concert venue grants access to sold out shows

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Platform helps clients track contractor billing in real time

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This just about sums up what we really know...

I found this quote and thought it really sums up what we think we know, or what we believe we know, or even those things we know we know nothing about but feel free to have an opinion.  It has clarified my thinking for today, because I know he's speaking the truth!!

My Opinion...Abercrombie has the right to make "skinny" clothes

OK - I'm getting ready to jump on the band wagon about Abercrombie and their right to both make statements and clothes that fit only skinny people - because it's called a FREE MARKET for a reason.  Here's the first one...

Reason #1 - All businesses should be focused on their customer - and many of the best businesses will limit their customers (oh the world of niche businesses and markets).  In the case of A&F, they have decided to limit their customer base to a specific range of sizes - and guess what, there are other retailers that do the same thing (but of course they are marketed as BIG & TALL or PLUS sizes) which is just good business.

Reason #2 - All businesses should know who their customers are, and create products and services that fill that need.  A&F caters to a very specific set of customers, with a very specific set of products.  Does that mean people not specifically targeted don't want their products?  No, but that has nothing to do with A&F.

Reason #3 - Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it's not popular or "politically correct" - including the CEO of A&F.  I've read what Mike Jeffries said IN A 2006 SALON interview and personally, who cares.  He has every right to say what he wants - and for his company to position their clothes how they want and to attract the customers they want.  Once again, it's a free market, he is free to say and sell what he wants and everyone else is free to buy (or not buy) what they want.

Personally, I believe the US is fat and unhealthy - in fact, I was fat an unhealthy for the majority of my adult life - I decided to change that about a year ago and started exercising and eating better.  Can I do better, sure - but my opinion still stands.  All you have to do is go any mall or Walmart in the US and just become aware of the people around you - and I guarantee you will witness how fat and unhealthy the country has become.  What Mike Jeffries said, pissed some people off - and they took offense to it and even called him a bully.  Well, I don't believe you can say he is a bully just by what he said - and anyone that took offense should look at themselves in mirror and if they are fat, do something about it and if their kids are fat, they should help their kids do something about.  Humans are not meant to be fat - it's not a natural state of being - Mike Jeffries just said some words, those hearing them should just get over it.

End rant.

What he said - from this Huffington Post article...
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

Difference of Opinion...Nothing has changed

I just received an email from the American Marketing Association, advertising an upcoming podcast with the tittle "What’s changed in product development and marketing since 1980? Everything" -- that got me thinking (btw, I'll add the link to the AMA website and webcast below, just incase you're interested).

Has EVERYTHING changed in marketing?  Or have things just evolved over time?  My belief is that things evolved - naturally.  It's not always a smooth curve or path, but it is a progression.  And most of that change has been brought about by technology - both in how our customer's use it and how we use it for Marketing.

But first of all, let me explain that to me - MARKETING - is much  more than just communicating, advertising, and fancy design work; it's bigger than awards for those that produce those things; it's so much larger than Super Bowl ads.  At it's core, Marketing is a professional discipline that drives revenue, top line stuff.  It is the high octane, jet fuel that speeds the business engine down the road.  I don't care if it's the smallest business to the global megacorp - Marketing is there to drive sales and revenue up.  There are things we could talk about in the area of cost reduction - but in my mind, marketing is not about the bottom line, it is about the top line - end of story.

And how do you drive the top line?  You create products and services people want to buy, you build them in such a way they fit what the way a customer wants to pull money out of their pockets to pay for them and create a "promise" to that customer - that that money will be justified by the "experience" they get from your product or service.  Plain and simple - Marketing supports the buying decision.  Now, if you have crappy products or service - the promise of the product or service better be that of a "it's not the best, but it will do" - and if you have superior products or services, the message better be about that, and the price should reflect it.

That hasn't changed.  People want to buy products and service - it is up to Marketing to let them know about how "your" product or service fits within their perceived idea of that category of products or services.  Now what has changed is how we "tell" our stories.  How we extract information.  How we use that information to build the top line.  But the basic premise of marketing has not changed - it's our job to know the who, what, when, how, and where - then apply it to the product, price, place and promotion.  The tools we use are both old school and new school - they are applied with an artistic flare and scientific precision - when done right, we support the sales efforts to create friction-less transactions with our customers, matching their "expectations" of what they will receive.

Marketing hasn't changed - times and tools changed.  That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Podcast/webcastWhat’s changed in product development and marketing since 1980? Everything.

Initial Success is not THE PLAN

I read an article on one of my new favorite blogs called "The Rational Male" called "The Plan" and it hit me because in many instances, our PLAN is more about creating initial success (and wins) rather than full blown success or seeing something all the way through to the end.

In the post, Rollo writes about "dating" - and how just getting the girl to accept a date is not THE PLAN and that if you believe you are successful at this point, then you haven't really thought through everything yet.  But how many times do we "think" our first few wins means we are successful.

Now for me, the article is interesting because it makes a few points about how we trick our minds into believing that any small win/victory is the same as successfully executing THE PLAN.  Hey, I'm all for celebrating wins, but that doesn't mean the game (or plan in this case) of over.  Keep you head about you, keep winning, taking action, looking forward - but don't loose sight of the ultimate goal.

Getting the date (in this case) is a step, but it's not the full plan.  Understand your full plan, then you can determine when you win and when to celebrate.

It's been forever...

It's been a while since I decided to write a blog post - lots of stuff that has happened in my personal live over the past few years - but really, that's just an excuse - because everybody has problems and situations that come up that "keep them away" from things.

I was thinking the other day about "failures" - and if you've lived more that a few years, you have them.  But my thinking was..."is it failure, or just a learning experience?"...and that's what I'd like to write about, how those failures can be learning experiences.

Think about the worst failure in your life - in mine, it was the time when I held onto a startup business venture for too long, ran out of money while being the sole support for my wife and kids, and it was a very bad time. I don't think I really fully recovered from it - I still have those feelings of "how could I do that", "what kind of husband and father are you", etc. and so on.  That was the worst, and I carried it with me (and still carry it with me) to this day.

Now, I can't change history.  I can't go back in time.  And I can get back all those years from that moment to this one.  BUT, I could have decided to view it as something other than a failure.  I learned a bunch in my time - both professionally and personally.  I did things I've never done before.  I push some beyond some limits in myself, faced some fears.  There was lots to take out of that time.

So, here's my assumption - that the quicker you get beyond thinking of it as a "failure" and get to thinking of it as a "lesson" / learning experience - because that's where the you turn your experiences, success, failure or inbetween, into the stepping stones to your future.

Fail fast, learn quick, move onto the next.