Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Turn Adversity into Opportunity

A Lesson From Google

Every self-help book has something similar to the following: “Inside every disaster there is an opportunity hiding.” I was always skeptical of this attitude, until a little adversity came my way.

I used Google to host a web site for me. As I mention in the eBook, I like Google web sites when you start a business because they are easy to put together, give several different template options, and most importantly, they generate a site map for you and index your site very easily. This gives you a better chance being found by their search engine.

There are two downsides, however, to using these sites:
1. Flexibility. For the most part you have to design within their template constraints. This can make your site look cookie-cutter.
2. You have to play by their rules. That’s where I got into trouble.
One morning I went to my Google site and a yellow banner came across the top that told me, “This site has been suspended for violation of our Terms of Service.” Yikes!

Google did not tell me what I had done wrong, only that I had violated the terms. They did give me a link to dispute their decision and a link to the Terms of Service for me to figure out the violation myself. After reading the terms, I guessed that the site was suspended because of a parity video I had created using my wife. It was a take-off on the Charles Schwab commercials. It had that “cartooner” effect the Schwab commercials had been using. So, I took the video off the site and wrote Google asking if we were friends now and if I could have my site back. Of course, there was no immediate response.

Panic setting in. This was my main site for my sales copywriting business. If people could not get to it how would I get business? If people saw that threatening banner at the top what kind of credibility would I have? How could people trust me with their sites? Is Google putting me out of business?

Breathe. The truth of the matter is that I had wanted to create my own pages for my business and host them with another provider but I had been putting it off. I had already created one site to give away this eBook on starting a business from scratch, and I thought it would be nice to have my sales copywriting pages have the same look and feel. But everything else took priority. Now it was time to buckle up and the pages done. I had no choice.
Take action. So, I jumped in and gave it priority. Within one day I had converted most of what people visiting my site would need to see if they wanted to hire me and I really liked the way it came out. I think it makes a much better impression and I’m already having better results. Taking action is the key to opening the opportunity door. Contrary to “secret” believers, you cannot just wish it to happen. You have to do something about your situation and put all your mental energies into it.

The Lessons. You usually don’t knowingly walk into adversity. Somehow you just end up there. But when it strikes, you have a choice to make: Wait for things to get better or take action yourself and try to turn the adversity into an opportunity. There a lot of lessons for entrepreneurs to be learned from what happened to me and how you can apply them to your business. Here are a few:
1. Don’t ever forget – Nothing in business is ever really free. If it was, it would be called a charity and not a business. Google gives away a lot of software for free because they tie it back to the advertising revenue model. And they do it very well. Google gives good, quality software at no cost. You can do a lot without spending anything. But you are playing in their sand box and have to play by their rules.
2. Make sure you have a backup plan for areas that are critical to your business. Don’t just think about it. Get them ready to go at a “Violations” moment’s notice. Your list should be prioritized and have the items that will shut you down listed at the top.
3. Don’t be lazy by thinking you will get it done but, “it’s such a hassle and I have important things I have to take care of.” Set aside a half hour a day and go through your list of critical areas to your business. Knock off a piece each day until you feel comfortable. (Don’t forget about data backups. Most people do forget to back up their data until it’s tragically too late. Thumb drives are ridiculously inexpensive these days.)
4. There really can be opportunity in adversity. You just need to stay calm, make a plan and take action. I’m a true believer now.

Google finally did write back to me. Their team said I could not use that particular site but I was welcome to create a new Google Site. It turns out I had a “link referral” on my site. Google does not allow those types of links on their sites. When you start a business from scratch, you need to know the ground rules for every part of your business.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Really good resource

Check out this article.

This a really good, comprehensive list. It also fits in with the theme of my free eBook. - How to start a business from scratch…without having any.
You can download it at

Monday, November 3, 2008

How to boost sales even with a slashed marketing budget

Is your marketing budget cut?

If so, you’re not alone.

Marketing and ad budgets have been cut everywhere.
But that doesn’t mean you sit still. There are plenty of things
you can do get results for very little money; and a lot of things are free.
Let’s look at the freebies:

First off, make sure your company comes up higher in the search
engines. Here are a few things you can do at no cost:

- Write articles and submit them to and other
article sites. Search engines like sites they consider experts in their field.
Articles are one way to show your expertise.

- Create a Site Map for Google. It will help them find you. Google suggests it. Why ignore it?

- Create a blog and get other people to link to it - backlinks. Search engines like sites that other sites think are relevant.

- Comment in other peoples blogs that are in your industry. And make the
comments meaningful. Don’t just copy and paste.

- Subscribe to Google Alerts. You can receive an email every day about
what’s going on with the keywords that affect you or are related to your
industry. It will also give you a list of blogs for your keywords.

- Reuse your content in your blog. It’s a little known strategy but used in
the correct way can bring results.

To get a innovative list of other ideas and talk to an award-winning,
persuasive copywriter, visit

Keep the faith,

Louie Bernstein

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Do you have what it takes to start a business?

Doing an Honest Self Appraisal
This needs to be your Chapter 1 - your starting point. Without understanding what it takes mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to start and grow a business from scratch, your chances of success diminish greatly. I can honestly tell you that growing a small business, while financially and emotionally rewarding, is the hardest thing I have ever done. And it will probably be the hardest thing you will ever do.

I have seen a lot of “Are you an entrepreneur?” evaluations in magazines and on the Internet. I don’t put much stock in them, and here’s why: they can’t know the really deep and important parts of your character from a survey. You can find some very good assessment tools to show what categories your personality fits into, how well you play with your coworkers and what kind of boss you might be. But, only you know if you are willing to put in what it takes to make your business successful and make good money. DO NOT take your attitude toward success lightly. At a minimum, you need:

- Determination not to give up.
- Tenacity to fight for a deal when the polite and easy thing
would be to walk away.
- Assertiveness to be able to ask the tough questions that make you uncomfortable and put a lump in your throat.
- Boldness to make the tough decisions that will change other people’s lives.
- Attention to minute detail. I know, everyone tells you to
delegate. And you should, once you can afford to and
understand your own businesses systems. Nobody will look
after your bottom line like you. Remember this is a book
about starting without money (scratch).

The character traits above are the minimum that you either need to have, or are willing to develop. Business is no place for the faint-of-heart. You need thick skin.

By the way, I was discussing this eBook with two of my sons aged 22 and 25 before I released it. They had never heard of the term, scratch, used for money. For me, it was one of those, “I’m as old as my parents” moments. They understood the Starting from Scratch part but thought that “without having any” meant without anything, not just without money. It didn’t become apparent until we were discussing a name for the monthly updates. I suggested, “Still itching for more Scratch?” and they looked at me like I was speaking Vulcan. They asked why someone would itch for more nothing. They pointed out that a scratch in pool is also bad. This is an excellent example and one that you, and I can learn from.

Tip - Don’t assume the world understands your product just because you know it so well. Whenever you come out with something new or write a new sales letter or brochure, make sure a few people read it first. Don’t give them any hints and then ask them to tell you what they learned. You may be surprised, like I was. BTW – I am still looking for a good name for the updates.

Tip - Start your day reading inspirational materials and success stories about others in business. We’ll discuss attitude in more detail because it really can mean the difference between success and failure – or between good and great.
One web site I like to start my day with is The Daily Motivator.

A Support System
Starting a business from scratch by yourself is tough enough. That’s why you need to surround yourself with positive people that will stick with you through all the ups and downs. It can be family and/or friends. I have been fortunate enough to have a tremendous wife and four great children who put their faith in me. And it was their faith many times that kept me going. When someone believes in you, you can accomplish a great deal.

Find your support system early on. Aside from friends and family look to join Master Mind groups (read Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich for advice on Master Mind groups), other groups of entrepreneurs, and user groups that have businesses similar to yours.

A key problem entrepreneurs have is CEO isolation. It really can be lonely at the top. A lot of decisions are made in a vacuum without input from others. Joining a CEO group will cost you and is probably not your best choice early on. But there are plenty of free support forums on the internet and I will be glad to answer as many questions as I can for you.

I was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor named Don Weber, who brought a ton of experience and reality-grounded advice to my company. Try to find a mentor. It helps if he or she has been through what you are tackling. I also like Napoleon Hill’s idea in Think and Grow Rich: He would talk to and knock around ideas with imaginary business leaders. You have to play both sides, and you feel a bit weird, but it works. At least this is a weird thing that can make you money.
Attitude Really Is Everything

I’ve spent the last few years reading everything I can about attitude. 10 million motivational speakers can’t all be wrong, can they? Even if others tell me those speakers are phonies or just acting, I don’t listen. I’ve often asked sales people, “When’s the best time to make a sale?” Do you know the answer? The answer is, right after you close the one before it. When you close a sale, or succeed at anything, you’re on top of your game. You feel great. You’re proud, confident and not afraid to meet with or call anyone. Why is that? Who cares! I chalk it up to just having the right attitude. All that matters is that we know it happens. The key is to notice when it happens, grab that feeling, and wear it all the time.

You need a good attitude to run a business. To me, having a good attitude means:
• Smiling and saying things are great when maybe they aren’t, and believing it.
• Never losing sight of the goal.
• Never losing sight of who you are working for. You need to know who that is.
It isn’t always you.
• Looking for the positive and accepting the realities.
• Not taking any of your setbacks out on someone else.
• Catching someone doing something well and letting them know about it right then.
• Fakin’ it ‘til you make it.