Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Why Do Smart People Make Dumb Business Decisions?

Blindspots. That's the answer according to author and clinical psychologist Madeleine L. Van Hecke. Her new book is entitled Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things, and it addresses a list of 10 mental glitches or blind spots that make very intelligent people do very unintelligent things.

Some of these include "Not stopping to think," "Not noticing," "Jumping to conclusions" and "Missing the big picture."

This makes me think of companies like Ford and Chrysler who built all those cars, when they knew they wouldn't be able to sell them. Or those financial executives at Washington Mutual and Wachovia who authorized all those subprime mortgage loans to families they knew couldn't afford the homes.

Or even those of us who invest a lot of money into our ideas without doing market research. Or those of us who fall victim to some service that guarantees results that we know are too good to be true.

In her book, Van Hecke reveals that EVERYONE HAS BLINDSPOTS and encourages people to embrace and understand their weaknesses to improve personal and professional relationships.

I haven't read the whole book yet, but so far its really good and it's getting a lot of five star reviews on One person said that its "a good book for business groups, or anyone wishing they didn't stumble over their own forehead-smacking blunders."

I'd have to agree; It's a must read. Add this to your collection.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ford's Comeback: Self-Parking Vehicles?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Ford Motor Co. is planning to launch a line of vehicles that are equipped with automatic parallel-parking systems. That's right, cars that can park themselves.

It doesn't sound like a bright idea to me, but I guess when you have billions in bailout money - you can afford to throw some money down the drain.

Similar technology is already available from Toyota for their Lexus cars, but Ford's version supposedly requires less driver input and reduces the risk of selecting a parking spot that is too small.

Mark Fields, president of Ford, said the company is counting on such technological innovations to help separate Ford from competitors and draw more people into its showrooms.

What do you think? Will this resurrect Ford? Or will they be asking for more bailout money when this idea flops?

Friday, December 26, 2008

FLASHBACK: Marketing Is A Science

This is a blog that I wrote and posted back in December 2007. Very few people commented on it, meaning that either very few people read it or it just wasn't a very good blog. Let's give it another shot, and see what happens:

Marketing is indeed a science. Marketing is all about conducting experiments based on educated guesses. Some say that marketing is an art because it's all about selling. But really its not all about selling. Marketing is mostly about research, thus the term "market research". When the proper research has been done, the product will sell itself.

One marketing professional once commented, "When you begin to formulate the type of marketing you will do, it involves the gathering of massive statistics. These stats, from validating a media buy to formulating the right message, graphics to the right audiences, are science at its best."

So what does this mean for entrepreneurs? Well, it means you should do two things when launching a marketing campaign:

1) Study or research your potential customers before you market to them. Do focus groups and conduct surveys to identify what customers think about products and services. Don't make any assumptions in marketing. For instance, don't conclude that just because there are a lot of kids in your neighborhood, that starting an ice cream store is ideal.

2) Experiment with different methods of marketing to consumers. Passing out flyers and business cards may or may not work for what you're promoting. However, you won't know if other avenues (newspaper ads, event sponsorship, postcard marketing, etc.) work, unless you try.

Just like any other science, marketing has no rules. There is plenty to be discovered. Push the boundaries, open new doors, and find what works for you! Think outside the box, and create another box if you have to.

I personally recommend and as great marketing resources to subscribe to.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Affiliate Revenue Is Real: I Made $200,000 In 2008

Believe it or not, but many people are making millions in annual revenue through affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing (also referred to as performance marketing) is when an advertiser pays a web site owner or blogger, not upfront, but only when someone clicks on the ad and completes an action - either buying something or completing an online form. This is commonly referred to as PPA (Pay-Per-Action), PPS (Pay-Per-Sale), or PPL (Pay-Per-Lead).

Some affiliate programs like Google Adsense will pay you whenever someone clicks on your ad, whether they complete an action or not. This is called PPC or Pay-Per-Click.

The concept is huge and very real; I've been doing it for about 10 years. My company made over $500,000 in 2008, and just under $200,000 of that came from affiliate marketing.

Here are my 2008 stats: = $32,000 = $9,700 = $89,000
Google Adsense = $52,000 = $5,100 = $10,000

Total = $197,800

This looks like a lot of money, but it is only pennies on the dollar. I know people who are doing $200,000 - $500,000 a month in affiliate revenue.

The key is that your web site has to get a lot of traffic, and you have to find relevant affiliate programs that cater to your audience. You also have to find ways to creatively promote the offers to your audience.

Plan to attend events focus on affiliate marketing, such as Ad Tech ( and Affiliate Summit ( Their conferences are usually held in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Boston, and Chicago. The workshops are very helpful, and they have an expo where you can meet and interact with a lot of affiliate marketing and internet technology companies.

Also, subscribe to Revenue Magazine ( - a very good publication that reports on affiliate marketing trends and opportunities.

My goal in 2009 is to double or triple my affiliate revenue. I plan to do more research, more networking, and get more traffic to my sites.

There's too much money out there, and I want a bigger piece of the pie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Obama + Government Contracting = Revenue For You

Government contracting has always been big, but President Obama is planning to make it even bigger through infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy.

If you've been procrastinating to get involved before, now is the time to take action. I recently found an article on whereas writer Karen Klein is interviewing government contracting expert Mark Amtower. Here it is below:

We keep hearing about how much money the government is going to spend on things like infrastructure projects to stimulate the economy next year. Will some portion of that work go to small businesses?

Definitely. These large infrastructure contracts will mostly be administered and bid out by the states, even for things like federal highway projects. So there's plenty of room for small businesses in government contracting, but only if they're selling something the government needs. The good news is that the government buys all kinds of stuff, even personal items for people who are traveling for the government, or moving their families. The bad news is that this is an incremental market. There are no quick hits, and learning the system is not easy or fast.

What advice do you give clients who are interested in getting into government work?

Identify no more than three federal agencies to target and home in on them first. And if you target federal contracts, you should also target state and local contracts in the jurisdictions where you pay taxes. It's a lot easier to raise a stink about the government buying from the big-box guys on the local level than it would be on the federal level.

For very small companies, I always tell them to start local. Putting a face to the company provides the same comfort factor for business-to-government as it does for business-to-business transactions. There are 37,000 government-occupied sites in the U.S.— not including military installations or postal offices—so the government is never far away from you. That includes things like the courts, VA hospitals, IRS tax offices, and even the animal and plant inspection guy who's attached to your local university. The blue pages of most phone books identify the government offices near you.

What kinds of companies get local—or federal—government contracts?

Name a business, and the government is buying from one like it. The federal government accounts for more than 15% of gross domestic spending. Throw in state and local governments and you get to over one-third of gross domestic spending. There are 20 million full-time government employees, and they are buying from independent office suppliers, companies that build or supply trucking equipment, companies that do grounds maintenance—you name it. Think of all the post offices and military bases—who's mowing the grass at those sites? There are a lot of ways that local businesses can play in this market.

Getting into the government contracting pipeline is complicated, as you mentioned. Where can small businesses get help with the process?

The Procurement Technical Assistance Program has 90-some offices around the country whose job is to help small businesses understand the mechanics of selling products or services to the government. They'll teach you the rules and regulations involved, which are substantial. The program is sponsored by the Defense Logistics Agency, and it provides low-cost or no-cost training that's held at universities or economic development agency offices. There's a list of the local centers available at

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bailouts For Everyone, Except Small Business Owners

President Bush has authorized $17.4 billion in emergency loans to struggling U.S. carmakers to avoid a collapse of the industry. The controversial move will save hundreds of thousands of jobs from falling victim to a deep recession.

The White House reports that the checks have been signed, and General Motors and Chrysler will access the money immediately.

I agree that the government should have stepped in to help these car companies, the same way I agreed with the decision to help the banks.

However, I don't understand why a bailout program isn't being assembled for small business owners. Successful small businesses fuel our economy, and create tons of jobs.

Where's our money? Do you think we'll ever get a check? If so, when? If not, why?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Businesses Say Employee Theft Is Up

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that more and more trusted employees are stealing from their companies. Here are some snippets from a recent article by Sarah Needleman:

In the wake of the recession, more businesses are facing a growing financial threat: employee theft. New research shows that employers are seeing an increase in internal crimes, ranging from fictitious sales transactions and illegal kickbacks to the theft of office equipment and retail products meant for sale to customers.

Employers suspect that workers are pilfering from them to cope with financial difficulties at home or in anticipation of being laid off. What's more, it's often the most trusted workers who are committing the thefts.

About 20% of employers polled last month said workplace theft has become a moderate to very big problem recently, according to a survey from the Institute for Corporate Productivity Inc., in conjunction with

The survey polled managers and executives at 392 U.S. companies representing a range of sizes and industries. When asked if they had noticed a recent rise in monetary theft among employees, such as fraudulent transactions or missing cash, 18% said yes, 41% were unsure and the rest said they hadn't.

Further, 24% of respondents said they had detected an increase in stolen nonmonetary items, such as retail products and office supplies, while 43% were unsure and 33% hadn't.

In 2007, companies lost an average of $2.4 million to fraud, the majority of it by employees, up from $1.7 million in 2005, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, which conducts biannual surveys of around 5,400 companies of all sizes world-wide.

For the full article, visit:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When Business Grants Attack: How To Avoid The Scams

In a time when banks and credit unions are denying loan applications like never before, many entrepreneurs and business owners are turning to business grants as a dependable source of financial help. However, just like scholarships and other financial aid opportunities - there are tons of scams to beware of.

Here are the top 5 signs of a business grant scam:

1) No Phone Number Listed
If you are on the web site of an organization or government agency that is offering a business grant opportunity, make sure that there is a working phone number listed. If not, it's probably not a legit opportunity. In addition, there should also be a working email address listed as well.

2) PO Box Address
If the postal address associated with the business grant is a PO Box, this may be a sign of a scam. Be sure to investigate though because some organizations have physical addresses, but want all applications and correspondence to go to a mail box.

3) Fee Required
If a company or organization is asking for your credit card number or requiring you to send a money order with your application, this will almost always be a scam.

Remember though that is very normal for some companies to charge a fee for you to access their grant database. Others will charge a fee to send you a CD-Rom or ebook. This is okay. What is not okay, is you having to pay to apply for an individual business grant opportunity.

4) Poor Web Site Design
If you visit a web site promoting a grant opportunity, and the design looks poor and elementary - it's likely a scam. Organizations and government agencies that give grants away have professional-looking and well-developed web sites.

5) Sounds Too Good To Be True
If an organization is making far-fetched statements about a grant opportunity, it's more than likely not legit. For instance, some grant opportunities may say "We can give you $1 million dollars for your business" or "No application is ever denied." These are claims that indicate a bogus opportunity.

For more tips, advice, and frequently asked questions about business grants, visit

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Business Lessons From O.J. Simpson

If you haven't heard by now, O.J. Simpson was convicted for his stick-up robbery in Las Vegas. He's been sentenced to up to 33 years in Nevada state prison, and isn't eligible for parole for 9 years.

Many people had enough of O.J. Simpson in the early 1990's when he was acquitted of killing his wife, and in 2006 when he released a book entitled If I Did It.

I, too, am no fan of Simpson or his dumb decisions, but I think we can all learn a few business lessons from him. Here they are:

1) Don't Gamble
There's a rumor floating around that Simpson turned down a plea deal to do only 3 years in prison. He gambled and lost, and now he's facing more than 10 times that.

Gambling too can hurt entrepreneurs. Granted, being an entrepreneur is risky - but it doesn't mean that you should make wreckless decisions. You should always be realistic with your expectations, and never ever turn down a reasonable deal.

2) Be Honest and Ethical
Had Simpson been honest about retrieving his stolen items, he would have gone to the police. He, however, did not want the items to go towards the settlement that he owed the Goldman family. This hurt his case badly.

Entrepreneurs too should always be honest and ethical in their business dealings. Remember that what goes around comes around, and that tons of business owners are locked up every year for fraud, stealing, and/or running scams.

3) Choose Your Business Associates Wisely
Another thing that hurt his case was the company that he kept. While attempting to retrieve his belongings, Simpson was accompanied by an individual who unknowingly had a gun. Several others were convicted felons. This weighed heavily in his case.

Entrepreneurs should also be careful about being affiliated or associated with shady business people. This can hurt your reputation, which could lead to a drop in revenue. You also may find yourself guilty of being an accomplice.

4) Not All PR is Good PR
I think most agree that Simpson's sentencing was very harsh, but its his own fault. Over the past 15 years, Simpson has received some of the worst criticism from the media. Although it shouldn't happen, the media shapes our opinions - and the judge in his case obviously did not think very highly of him.

Entrepreneurs should remember that not all publicity is good publicity. This is a very common misconception. Remember this when planning your marketing strategies, and aim to get as much good PR as possible. One wise man put it perfectly: "Make the news, not the headlines."

Where Did Starbucks Go Wrong?

You may remember earlier this year when Starbucks closed over 600 stores. Many were shocked when this happened because Starbucks had been one of the most successful business stories of the century.

Granted, they didn't go bankrupt and they are not going out of business. But why exactly were they in a position whereas they had to close hundreds of underperforming storefronts?

Here's my opinion about what went wrong: Aside from the bad habit of building franchises right across the street from each other, Starbucks also made the costly mistake of over charging customers for premium coffee that was too easy to be duplicated.

It was just a matter of time before local gas stations and other major restaurants like McDonald's started offering the same coffee for half the price.

Funny enough, McDonald's is now promoting their new line of espresso with a taunting billboard ad that reads "Four bucks is dumb." The campaign is targeted at Starbucks, and one of the billboards is right outside of Starbucks' headquarters in Seattle.

Check out this recent article in USA Today:

What's your opinion? Why do you think Starbucks is hurting? Is it the bad economy or are they just making bad decisions?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Guess What? You Have Friends In The White House

Business Week just posted a slide show on their web site, showcasing all of your new friends in the White House that may be working on small business issues.

Apparently, about one-third of the new members of Congress have hands-on experience with small businesses, either as entrepreneurs or venture investors. Whether their small business roots will influence their lawmaking remains to be seen.

We already know that one of President Obama's top advisors is billionaire Warren Buffett, but here are a few more business experts on his team:

Mark Warner - Made his fortune as a partner of Columbia Capital, a venture capital fund focused on telecom companies. He was one of the early investors in Nextel.

Jared Polis - His family founded Blue Mountain Arts, and he has started a raft of companies himself, including, American Information Systems, and Sonora Entertainment Group.

Chris Lee - Took over a unit of the family business, International Motion Control, a manufacturer of shock absorbers, in 1995. Under his leadership, it grew into a 300-person company with $250 million in annual revenues.

For the complete list and to view the slide show, visit:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What The Heck Is A Twitter?

I regret to inform you that if you don't know what Twitter is, you are behind the curve. But don't panic, I will brief you and if you listen now you'll be back on track in no time.

Twitter is an online tool that allows you to communicate and stay connected with your friends, family, and/or colleagues. Yes, I know what you're thinking: You can already do this through social networking and blogging.

Well, Twitter is often referred to as micro-blogging - that is, blogging with just 1 or 2 short sentences. People can follow you, and you can follow them - and all the while everybody is keeping each other up-to-date on what they're doing.

It sounds silly, but millions of people use Twitter every single day. Some use it for pointless banter, others use it for meaningful dialogue and to share content.

I've been twittering for a couple of months now, and it's definitely something that all entrepreneurs should do. If you don't have an account, its time to get one; It's 100% free. If you do have a Twitter account, it's time to start using it.

For more details and/or to sign up, visit:

To follow me on Twitter, visit:

Monday, December 8, 2008

This Just In: Money Does Grow On Trees

I came across some information that encourages people to learn how to make money from farming. Yes, farming - growing food and selling it. Apparently, this is a growing phenomenon as a result of the bad economy and recession.

Now, before you start shaking your head. Consider this: There is a new concept called Micro Eco-Farming, which is basically local mini-farming. The idea is that you can grow food in your backyard and sell it to local stores, restaurants, and food co-ops. You can also sell the food at your local farmer's market, or you can set up your own roadside stand.

Even better, you can sell the food to your organic-loving neighbors.

It may sound far-fetched, but people are making anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars a month from micro eco-farming.

Here are some useful resources, in case you're interested:

Start a Small Farm or Make Money From Your Garden

How to Sell Your Crops: Marketing

Center For Micro Eco-Farming Movement

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Banks Made $17.5 Billion In Overdraft Fees Last Year - Is This Ethical?

A recent study by the FDIC revealed that banks and credit unions make billions each year off overdraft fees. It was found that young and low-income consumers, in particular, are disproportionately affected by these fees.

I'm not sure whether to say "congratulations to banks for creatively finding an alternative form of revenue" or "shame on you for pimping your customers."

I guess you can't really say that banks have been cheating their customers or stealing from them, because they generally do explain their overdraft policy to you when you open an account.

What do you think? Is this unethical? Or is it smart from a business owner's perspective? Be sure to leave your comments.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Learn To Speak Like Obama

In the past month, about ten different Obama books have popped up. One that has recently caught my eye is Say It Like Obama: The Power of Speaking with Purpose and Vision by Shelly Leanne.

This book is about the art of persuasion, the power of presentation, and the most effective techniques of communication. From building strong arguments and facing tough issues to inspiring a team or workforce to new levels of innovation and productivity, Say It Like Obama provides the tools necessary to instill positive change at every level of your organization by learning how to:

* Make a strong first impression.
* Use body language and voice.
* Establish common ground.
* Gain trust and confidence.
* Win hearts and minds.
* Drive your points home.
* Convey your vision through imagery and words that resonate.
* Build to a crescendo and leave a lasting impression.

Whether you're a manager, executive, public speaker, teacher, business owner, or community leader, Say It Like Obama will provide you with presentation techniques that have inspired and mobilized audiences of every size.

At the time I wrote this blog, ten people reviewed the book on - and all ten gave it 5 stars. Must be worth it!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

U.S. Treasury Bolsters Secondary Market for Small Business Loans

A new plan by the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve to improve market conditions for asset-backed securities – including those composed of SBA-backed small business loans – is welcome news to credit-hungry small businesses across the country.

The plan establishes the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, to breathe new life into a secondary market that essentially ground to a halt in October. The TALF would make loans to investors who purchase asset-backed securities made up of small business loans guaranteed by the SBA.

About $4 billion in securities backed by SBA-guaranteed loans are bought and sold in the secondary market each year, with the total outstanding amounting to about $15 billion. At present, a share of the current year’s volume of loans securitized by lenders – estimated at up to $3 billion – is essentially frozen. The resulting lack of liquidity hampers the ability of some of SBA’s lending partners to make new SBA-backed loans.

The loans that investors will receive from TALF through this new action can be used to purchase these securities from brokers.

In other words: This new plan will encourage thousands of banks to lend more money to small business owners and entrepreneurs like me and you - even during a bad economy.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where Do Professional African Americans Go To Network?

African Americans have quite a few choices when it comes to professional networking events and activities. Groups who meet regularly include First Fridays and Second Thursdays, and also local chapters of organizations such as the NAACP and the Black MBAs.

Many college organizations such as the AKAs, Deltas, and Kappas have monthly local get-to-gethers, and so do many alumni groups, churches, etc. There are even popular annual conferences such as the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs conference, George Fraser's FraserNet conference, and many others.

Truth, be told there are thousands of different networking events - local and national - for Black professionals to attend. The problem is that none of them allow you to continue networking within that group before or after their events.

To solve that problem, my company Lee Moss Media has recently launched - an online community where African Americans professionals can meet and interact with each other every day - all day long.

Free to use, the site is a social network (comparable to LinkedIn or Facebook) that allows users to communicate with each other as if they were in the same room. They can sign each others' guest books, and read and post relevant news, blogs, and events. They can even upload/view videos, and can join/create groups.

For more details about the site or to join for free, visit:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why Most Black Web Sites Don't Get Real Traffic

People ask me all the time why they can't build up the traffic to their sites. Here's my answer: Because you don't spend the money, energy and time that's needed.

Too often, people believe that passing out flyers and business cards with your web site on it is enough. What they fail to realize is that's the easy route that yields no results.

If you want results, you have to take the hard, tedious and somewhat expensive route. Most importantly, you must learn to be consistent with it and patient about it.

Here are two major suggestions:

1) Invest In Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Million of businesses use this method to increase their web traffic. Its costly, but it can still be affordable. My favorite service to use is Google Adwords. However, there are several out there including Yahoo Search Marketing,, and most recently - FaceBook Ads and Myspace Ads.

The concept of pay-per-click advertising is simple. You bid on keyword search terms, and decide how much you want to pay whenever someone clicks on your ad. Typically, the rate is anywhere from $.10 to $.50 per click, but it can go much, much higher for certain keywords.

I personally use this method to build traffic to my network of my web sites, and take my word: it works!

2) Learn The Ropes of Content Marketing
You and your web site should be a resource to industry professionals. The best way to establish yourself as a resource is to supply content. This can be done by writing a book or hosting free seminars, but more relevantly by writing and distributing columns and articles to the online media.

Mainstream newswire services like and, and African American newswire services like are excellent tools to help you do this.

When writing your article, be sure to include your web site address. This will help readers to easily access your site, and it will also help you with higher organic search engine ranking. In other words, your site will be more likely to come up first when people search for related keywords.

I highly suggest that you write and distribute content on a weekly basis. If not, at least do so every other week or monthly.

Remember, that the process of building web traffic can be time-consuming and tedious. Like anything else worthwhile, it does require some effort.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Never Check E-Mail In the Morning

I was recently in a book store, and saw a business book by Julie Morgenstern entitled Never Check E-Mail In The Morning. I didn't even need to pick the book up because it instantly dawned on me why that is a very good idea.

Checking email in the morning can wear you down before your day has even started. If you're like me, you get over 100 emails every single day. The problem is that reading and scanning emails not only can wear on your mind, but also on your eyes.

Doing this in the beginning of the day only inhibits any activities that you planned to do in the afternoon and evening. By then, you've already sucked up your brain's juice - so to speak.

Even more, reading and replying to email these days can take an hour or two or more - and before you know it you've wasted the whole morning doing this. For most of us, the whole morning can be half of our day.

The better idea is to check email in the late afternoon. This way you can use your morning energy on more productive activities such as sales calls, brainstorming, enhancing your company's services or products, strengthening your relationships with existing clients, and more.