Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are You Your Worst Enemy?

There are many factors that can contribute to a business failing: lack of advertising, poor management of staff, bad customer service, tax trouble, etc. However, many entrepreneurs don't realize that sometimes the problem is the one thing you never think of: you.

That's right, it could very well be true that you are your company's worst enemy.

Perhaps, your personality is too aggressive and you turn potential clients away. Or maybe your personality is too soft and you aren't convincing enough to potential clients.

Or could it be that you're too lazy and lack work ethic? Or maybe you work too hard and are always too tired to pay attention to new opportunities.

Or maybe you're too stubborn. Could it be that you're ignorant and slow to adapt change? Or maybe you change too much and people can't keep up with you.

Or maybe you blame others, instead of taking responsibility and accountability when things go wrong. As a result of your denial, perhaps you're making the same mistakes over and over again.

Conduct an honest self-analysis. Be determined to find your "blindspots". Ask others what they think about you as a business owner, and how you run your company. Listen closely to what they say, and take action.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Free Subscription to DMNews Magazine

One of my favorite publications to read is the weekly issue of DMNews Magazine. It's the ultimate resource for comprehensive coverage of the direct, database and online marketing industries.

Owned by Haymarket Media Group (the same company that produces PRWeek and MediaWeek), DMNews offers tons of useful tips for marketers, and it accurately reports on the latest marketing trends and happenings. Even more, it occasionally features insightful columns written by industry leaders.

Anyways, they recently sent me something in the mail to offer my colleagues a FREE subscription.

Apparently, all you have to do is visit this link and complete the form:

Subscribe yourself and encourage others to do the same!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Black Enterprise Accepting Nominations For 2010 Small Business Awards

The Black Enterprise Small Business Awards were created to provide special recognition to African American entrepreneurs who embody the Black Enterprise entrepreneurial spirit. They are looking for companies and individuals bringing new products to the forefront, redefining sales strategies, and discovering new and profitable markets.

All entries must be received by March 16, 2010. Winners will be announced at a special awards luncheon in Atlanta on May 17, 2010 at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference.

* Nominees will receive a mention on as well as in Black Enterprise magazine.

* Nominees will be recognized at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference awards luncheon.

* Winners will receive a prestigious Black Enterprise Small Business Award.

Award Category Nomination Requirements:

* BE Next—Young entrepreneurs of today doing the business of tomorrow
This award is presented to the entrepreneur doing business in a new, cutting edge arena (21st century-driven industry and business model a must). Only those ages 21 to 35 as of the award submission deadline are eligible for the award.

* Teenpreneur Award—The next generation of business leaders
This award recognizes a young entrepreneur or group, age 19 or younger, committed to advancing the rich tradition of black business achievement. These young entrepreneurs have positioned themselves to become the next generation of business leaders.

* Community Champion Award—Doing well by doing good
This is a community service-oriented award presented to the business owner, franchisee, or entrepreneur who goes above and beyond the call of business. The winner is someone who is generating revenues, and either giving back consistently or helping others is the core aspect of their business.

* Innovator of the Year
This award is given to the business flourishing in an innovative industry or
those approaching business/entrepreneurship in a groundbreaking manner
via their products and/or services.

*Small Business of the Year
This award is presented to the small business owner whose efforts and/or
entrepreneurial pursuits exemplify the passion and commitment needed to
overcome adversity as well as attain success.

To download the nomination form, visit:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Interview With Dr. Farrah Gray

Dr. Farrah Gray, a long-time client and colleague of mine, is a 24-year old celebrity entrepreneur and philanthropist who has a huge success story. Raised in the south side of Chicago, he's been recognized and highlighted in Ebony Magazine, Jet Magazine, "O" Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Post, and countless other publications. He's been a featured guest on CNN, The Tom Joyner Show, The Michael Baisden Show, The Oprah & Friends show, and more.

At age 14, he became a self-made millionaire when he founded a company called Farr-Out Foods that produced a strawberry-vanilla syrup product that generated orders exceeding $1.5 million. At the age of 21, he received an Honorary Doctorate degree of Humane Letters from Allen University.

Today, he's known as the best-selling author of "Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out" - a self-help publication that was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton. His latest releases “Get Real, Get Rich” and “The Truth Shall Make You Rich” are also best-selling books.

Just recently, he has launched his own imprint as a book publisher - Farrah Gray Publishing

I recently caught up with him for a quick interview:

Dante: Thanks Dr. Gray for your time! Tell me about your new business venture as a book publisher. How did you get into this industry?

Dr. Gray: Farrah Gray Publishing was launched last year and is distributed worldwide by HCI Books, the company that is famous for publishing the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series. We have several different authors – Ky-Mani Marley, Bob Marley’s second youngest son, and several others who we have recently signed.

I’ve been an author for a little over 6 years now. By God's grace, I've written three best-selling books. When I received about 5 offers for my next book, I said "Wait a minute - what if I package all these authors and go and shop my own imprint deal?" So that's how that came about.

Dante: How does it feel to be labeled as one of the youngest (if not THE youngest) African American to reach millionaire status? Is it your goal to help others reach this milestone? I know you do a lot of motivational speaking.

Dr. Gray: Actually by God's grace, I've been blessed with the title of being the youngest. Specifically the youngest not in the entertainment field to become a millionaire at 14, and to set up an office on Wall Street. I didn't really realize what was going on when it was taking place because I think history doesn't feel great in the moment - you're just kind of living and doing. I'm very thankful, but I would say I've reached a small level of success. There's way more to do and to accomplish.

It's my goal to help others reach whatever milestone that they've set for their life. I think success is very personal, it's kind of like a GPS system - you hop in your car and you put the exact destination that you want to get to. It has nothing to do with anyone else on the road necessarily. So I just pray that people find inspiration through what I've accomplished.

Dante: Tell me about your book "Get Real, Get Rich". What advice will a person find if they read this?

Dr. Gray: The thing I love about that book is that it really debunks the greatest myths as it relates to things that I believe block people from success - such as "it takes money to make money", which is not really true. People seem to forget that the Starbucks that we see today, at one time was just a local coffee shop. Oprah Winfrey was a local talk show host. So you have to start off small and then grow all of your ideas. But I think that sometimes we want to start off with mega-success on the first day, when we have to crawl before we can walk.

Another myth I talk about in the book is the entertainment myth. A lot of people believe that they can't be successful unless they're in the entertainment field - saying "I'm going to make it in sports" or "I'll be the next American Idol". Well what do you do if you don't have that kind of talent? I think that it's important to find what God put you here to do. One of the greats of our time once said, "The two most important times of anyone's life is when we were born and when we find out why we were born." So I think it's about finding your area of excellence.

Dante: What other successful business ventures do you have, and what are you planning in the future?

Dr. Gray: The publishing company is very demanding; We've brought on about 100 celebrity contributing authors to the publishing company. So far we've been blessed to only sign celebrities, so that's been really exciting to help them get their untold stories out. I am also, which a lot of people don't know, the largest platinum African American dealer in the country - and probably in the top 3 as far as gold, for African Americans. I buy actual gold wholesale and I sell it retail to different coin stores. That's something I've always enjoyed. It protects your wealth, and I've made a lot of money doing it. But again, my main focus is the publishing company, or the publishing house.

Dante: One final question. This is a trick question. How does one fail in business? I know you've been extremely successful in business, but one of the factors that contribute to being a successful entrepreneur is learning what NOT to do.

Dr. Gray: I think, as you said, learning. Knowledge is power. I think education is important, whether formal or informal. The old saying is that "people don't plan to fail, they fail to plan" - which is true. A lot of people jump into a particular business because of the money that they can possibly make. But if you don't have a passion, you'll abandon it when times get hard. If you don't have a comprehensive knowledge of the business that you want or the industry you want to go into, you will fail.

It's really about knowing your market, developing a niche market, starting off small and taking it one step at a time. Also, you must define who you are in business for, or what you're in business for - for that matter.

Also, it's about relationships. I've been working with you now for many, many years, and I'm a repeat client of your company. It's all about relationships. I mean, I'm sure you've noticed that.

As it relates to failing, as it says in the Scripture, people parish for lack of knowledge. They say "knowledge is power," but I would say no, knowledge is not power. Applied knowledge is power.

Dante: Excellent advice. Thanks for the interview, and congrats on everything!

Dr. Gray: Your welcome. It's a pleasure to be featured on your blog.

For more info on Dr. Farrah Gray, visit:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Web Site Publishes 2010 Annual Listing of Real Business Grant Opportunities

The National Institute of Small Business Grants, a leading global resource for business funding, has published their annual 2010 listing of business grant opportunities. The extensive listing is available online at, and is free to the public.

Nike, Microsoft, Intuit, Pepsi, MillerCoors, and IBM are just a few of the companies listed who have programs that are designed to give business grants away this year. Organizations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dayton Foundation, IFA Educational Foundation and the PepsiCo Foundation. Government agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), FTA (Federal Transit Administration), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and more.

A business grant is a unique form of funding whereas cash awards are given to entrepreneurs and business owners when they qualify for the specified guidelines. There is typically no expectation of repayment. Such grants are given away by major corporations for charity and public relations purposes, but are also given away by non-profits and government agencies to help rebuild or strengthen small business communities.

Because the Internet is saturated with so much fraudulent information pertaining to business grants, was launched in 2008 as the official online resource for real and legit funding opportunities. The site reports on all avenues of business funding, and features exclusive and original news, tips, videos, and a daily blog.

The site also has a Twitter account (@BizGrants) and a YouTube channel to support their social media outreach.

For more details, visit:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Should Your Web Site Use Flash?

Owned by Adobe Systems, the same company that produces Photoshop and Dreamweaver, Flash is a software application that allows you to add animation and interactivity to your web site.

Flash is commonly used to display interactive pull-down menus, interactive advertisements, interactive videos, and even interactive video games.

Despite it's useful and creative functionality, using Flash is a controversial topic amongst many web designers and developers. As for me, I highly recommend that small business owners don't use it.

Here are three reasons why:

1) Slow Loading Time
Using Flash can slow down the loading time of your web pages. If your web site is designed entirely using Flash, people may have to wait up to 30 seconds or more until the loading completes. In my opinion, a visitor is very likely to leave your web site and find another one - opposed to waiting around for it to load.

Even if your web site moderately uses Flash, it can still cause a loading delay.

2) Not Search Engine Friendly
Using Flash can make your web site look and feel more interactive, but it can also make your web site invisible to search engines. This is because search engine algorithms are written to crawl images and text, not flash applications. If you conduct a search with any keyword of your choice on Google or Yahoo, I'm willing to bet that the top ten listings will be web sites that do not use Flash.

3) Not Mobile Friendly
More and more people are using their cell phones to access the web, and guess what? Web sites built using Flash will not display correctly when accessed from a mobile device. If your entire web site was built using Flash, it will not display at all.

Apple, who has the fastest-growing marketshare for mobile devices, has purposely excluded support for Flash web sites from the iPhone and their soon-to-be-released iPad. In fact, they are endorsing an up-and-coming competitor called HTML5 instead of Flash.

In conclusion, I think Flash has its place for web sites that allow users to watch videos and play video games. I also think it's okay for major corporations who aren't very dependent on search engine traffic. But for most small businesses, I would suggest to steer clear from using it on your web site.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Magic Johnson Should Buy Ebony and Jet

If you haven't heard by now, the rumors are true. Magic Johnson is interested in buying Johnson Publishing, the company that owns Ebony and Jet Magazines.

Ebony and Jet, if you didn't know, are the oldest and the most widely circulated publications that target African Americans. Founded by John Johnson over 60 years ago, the company has since generated billions in advertising revenue - but has fallen on tough times amidst a difficult economy and the recent deaths of both Johnson and his wife.

In 2009, the company's revenue declined 38% to just $35.5 million.

However, former NBA player and business mogul Magic Johnson is interested in coming to the rescue. He and his company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, are reportedly already having conversations to move the acquisition forward.

I think this is a great idea for Magic Johnson. Johnson Publishing needs a new face, and I think Magic's clean and well-respected image is perfect.

Even more, Magic is a brilliant entrepreneur with many successful businesses. He has defied many odds, and has become a global business icon. I believe that in no time he could rebuild Ebony and Jet back to profitability.

It's also a great PR move for him to be known as the person who bought two ailing magazines that have such powerful and cultural significance amongst Blacks.

Finally, Magic's acquisition of the company would encourage something that you don't see much of these days: Bigger Black-owned companies acquiring their smaller Black-owned counterparts. This is something that the Black business community lacks greatly, and is the very reason why many small Black-owned firms have sold their companies to white-owned firms.

Through this one simple acquisition, Magic Johnson would make history (again), and would undoubtedly influence the lives of African Americans in many different ways.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Using A Free Email Address Is Bad For Business

If you are a company, an organization, or just an individual brand, you should not be using free email address accounts as your primary form of communication.

What is a free email address account? Any email address that ends in,,,, etc.

If your name is Grace and the name of your business is Grace Publishing, it makes you look unprofessional and "small" if your primary email address is

Instead, your primary email address should be or even - hosted on your own domain name.

This simple implementation will make your company (and you) sound and look a lot more legit. Even more, it looks better on your business cards and on your promo material.

Setting up and managing email addresses on your own domain is very easy to do. It's called business email hosting.

There are several affordable services that can help you with this.

I recommend, Gmail Business, or Of the three, I like Gmail Business the best because they only charge you $50 a year per email, and their functionality is very impressive.

Making the change will only take you a few minutes, and the configuration will be completed in just one day.

Your email address may not be free anymore, but the small cost is well worth it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Why Your Press Release Didn't Work

First off, you can't assume that your press release didn't work because you didn't hear from anybody. Many newspapers and magazines will publish your press release without telling you.

Secondly, many radio stations will briefly mention the content of your press release on-air without telling you.

Generally, you are only contacted if there is a problem with your press release, if you are needed for an interview, or if there are some unanswered questions.

With all that said, it still is possible for a press release to simply not work.

Here are some potential reasons:

1) Wasn't newsworthy
Perhaps, your press release did not have national appeal. Maybe it meant something to you, but nothing to others. Next time, make sure your press release is meaningful enough to get used.

2) Was too long
Maybe your press release took up too much space. It may have been considered for placement, but simply wouldn't fit in the space allowed. Next time, keep your press release short - no longer than 1 page.

3) Had too many typos and grammatical errors
Newspapers prefer to copy and paste your press release into their format without having to edit it. If your press release is poorly written and involves too much editing, it's easier for them to just find another press release. Next time, use spellcheck.

4) Not enough consistency
Like anything else, the human brain responds to consistency and branding. If you send a press release out once a year, you are not building your brand amongst journalists and bloggers. Try sending a press release out every 1-2 months, and they will be more likely to recognize you and/or company.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Rise and Fall of Toyota

How long does it take for the world's most successful auto company to fall? About a week or so.

On January 21, 2010, Japan-based Toyota began experiencing one of the worst public relations crises that the auto industry has seen when they officially recalled over 2 million vehicles including the Camry, Corolla, and RAV4 models.

Apparently, many of the vehicles are having problems with braking.

The bad PR immediately began effecting Toyota's reputation and revenue, as U.S. sales slumped 15.8 percent in the company's poorest January performance in 11 years.

Even worse, only 15,792 units of the Camry were sold in January 2010, down 55 percent from January 2009 and down 24 percent for the current year.

Meanwhile, rivals General Motors and Ford have decided to capitalize on the opportunity. Both have been offering $1,000 incentives to drivers who trade in their Toyotas for a new car.

So what does all this mean?

Well, it means that you can't be number one forever and that no matter how successful you are in business - you will eventually experience a disastrous situation.

It also means that this is a prime opportunity for American auto companies to regain market share, create more jobs, and help rebuild the economy.

However, Toyota is an experienced and intelligent company who is bound to make a recovery from all this. Yes, they screwed up big - but they'll bounce back. They'll have to ride the wave of bad PR for a couple of months, and then work on rebuilding their brand.

Sadly, though, it took only a week for them to fall - but will likely take a few years for them to rise to the top again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What Does PR Mean To You?

The most common meaning of PR is "Public Relations".

Wikipedia defines public relations as "the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and the public, gaining an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment for advertising."

However, PR can also mean "Press Release" - which is an official announcement or statement that is distributed to the media in order to supplement or replace an oral presentation. A series of press releases can be very helpful in managing a company's or individual's public relations campaign.

PR can even mean "People Relations" - which is just a different way of describing public relations, with more emphasis on the fact the public consists of actual people that are being related to.

To some, PR just means "Phone Ringing" - whereas a public relations campaign is launched with the goal of increasing phone calls to a sales number where consumers can order products. Or the goal could be to get journalists to call to ask questions and schedule radio and TV interviews.

To others, PR means "Plenty of Requests" - whereas a campaign is launched with the goal of increasing web site traffic and having potential customers inquire via email or through an online form.

To all, however, PR really just means one thing - "Profitable Results". Whether your campaign consists of just press releases being distributed or a combination of other media strategies - the end goal is always to help your company or organization produce more revenue. When done correctly, that's exactly what PR will do.