Try and Tell The Young People Today That

Try and Tell The Young People Today That

There are some things that never get old. And this sketch is one of them.

(Four well-dressed men sitting together at a vacation resort. ‘Farewell to Thee’ being played in the background on Hawaiian guitar.)

Michael Palin: Ahh.. Very passable, this, very passable.

Graham Chapman: Nothing like a good glass of Chateau de Chassilier wine, ay Gessiah?

Terry Jones: You’re right there Obediah.

Eric Idle: Who’d a thought thirty years ago we’d all be sittin’ here drinking Chateau de Chassilier wine?

MP: Aye. In them days, we’d a’ been glad to have the price of a cup o’ tea.

GC: A cup ‘ COLD tea.

EI: Without milk or sugar.

TJ: OR tea!

MP: In a filthy, cracked cup.

EI: We never used to have a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled-up newspaper.

GC: The best WE could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.

TJ: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

MP: Aye. BECAUSE we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, ‘Money doesn’t buy you happiness.’

EI: ‘E was right. I was happier then and I had NOTHIN’. We used to live in this tiiiny old house, with greaaaaat big holes in the roof.

GC: House? You were lucky to have a HOUSE! We used to live in one room, all hundred and twenty-six of us, no furniture. Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of FALLING!

TJ: You were lucky to have a ROOM! *We* used to have to live in a corridor!

MP: Ohhhh we used to DREAM of livin’ in a corridor! Woulda’ been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House!? Hmph.

EI: Well when I say ‘house’ it was only a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarpaulin, but it was a house to US.

GC: We were evicted from *our* hole in the ground; we had to go and live in a lake!

TJ: You were lucky to have a LAKE! There were a hundred and sixty of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road.

MP: Cardboard box?

TJ: Aye.

MP: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in, week out. When we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!

GC: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!

TJ: Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up out of the shoebox at twelve o’clock at night and LICK the road clean with our tongues. We had half a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.

EI: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, (pause for laughter), drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing ‘Hallelujah.’

MP: But you try and tell the young people today that… and they won’t believe ya’.

ALL: Nope, nope…

Why Does Hollywood Have to Ruin Everything?

Why Does Hollywood Have to Ruin Everything?

Hollywood. An area of Los Angeles where magic is made and dreams are realized. Also, a place where the lowest forms of life live and an infinite line of dreams are routinely and grossly shattered. It’s where the best and brightest go to show the world what they’ve got and everybody else below them means little. No one stays at the top for very long and the mighty fall hard.

Hollywood’s about making money through entertainment. It has to be bigger than life or it won’t be considered. The problem is that there’s a really big disconnect between the producers of the entertainment and the consumers. So they find something that’s popular and try to make it better, meaning they’re always looking for things to soup up. Sequels are often the result. But for marketers an obviously low-hanging fruit is toys. Merchandising. Think George Lucas got rich with theater ticket sales?

So naturally, it’s time to destroy Barbie.

I have to state upfront I don’t see the attraction girls do to that toy/doll, but as the father of a 4-year-old girl, I play Barbie all the time, as best as I can. My daughter loves playing with dolls and creating scenarios and having them do things like she does, and pretend they’re different people. It’s a healthy outlet for creativity and I support her obsession with them. I’ll make accessories for her to play with them, like gluing a screw onto a Coke cap to make a frying pan, a pipe cleaner and old baby sock for a backpack, making beds out of shoeboxes, and other lame efforts.

But the point of the thing is to have the child use her imagination to develop certain skills and create worlds and interact with other dolls and feed her mind. Hollywood steps in and says “we’ll show you what Barbie does, and who Barbie is.” And not only will they get it wrong, but they’ll also do so in the most politically-correct way that all the fun and magic will just die.

In a sense, the media, and Hollywood, have become our cultural government. Of course, sponsored by McDonalds and Diet Coke.

A Regrettable Trend

A Regrettable Trend

My shoes have a few miles on them at this particular point in my life, and I’ve been noticing something, which I’m sure if you’re over the age of 27 you have too. And that’s the rapid decline of Americans’ sense of self-presentation. This may be the case in some other countries as well, but my concern is our homeland and how we’re representing ourselves and our families.

Kentuckiana-man

“Kentuckiana-Man” Lots of sighting of his species when it starts getting hot out. Notice underwear is hanging out but still doesn’t conceal his butt-crack. Perfect.

I suppose it was bound to happen. I’m not just talking about America’s obesity problem, which is far more problematic and noticeable than any opioid or gun-regulation issue on our hands. We live in the land of the free which I’m more and more thankful for, so if you want to treat your body like a trash can, go right ahead.

The problem I’m more concerned about is what is going on over and on the mesomorphic bodies that are on parade around this fine land. Just over the past few decades, the people in America decided that wearing what you had on when you just got out of bed is fine to go grocery shopping and do other necessary public tasks in.

I feel like I don’t need to post evidence of what I mean here because it’s so evident. Just Google “People of WalMart,” and there you go.

What I’m referring to is the fact that just a little over a half-century ago, men would wear hats, suits, ties(not to mention cufflinks, tie-tacks, and other finishing accessories), and ladies would wear hats, gloves, and dresses to go out in. They did so because there was a sense of pride in how they appeared and had some dignity. Apparently, the concept of keeping up one’s appearance for our own sake suddenly was a worry no more. God forbid we might put ourselves together for the sake of our fellow men and women that have to look at us.

Clearly, the days of taking our fashion hints from the military were over came to a crashing, fiery halt in the God-awful ’70s, where no unnatural synthetic material wouldn’t make the best choice of clothing material. Dakron, nylon, rayon, and any other plastic, non-breathable, flammable, itchy, double-knit atrocity was high fashion during my childhood. But to go from polished wingtips, suit and tie and hat to shower shoes, pajama bottoms and a tank top in a couple of decades is throwing in the barf rag. It’s not just saying “I don’t care what you think about me.” It says “I have no pride or self-respect.” That may sound harsh, but how could you argue that?  Even if you tried, you’d then have to consider the bodies being clothed these days which are larger than they should be, and tattooed as much as the family budget will allow for such important permanent graffiti. Tattoos are a whole different cultural phenomenon that should be discussed. It used to be the counter-culture that got tattoos. But now pure-skinned people such as myself seem to be the counter-culture. A lot of other cultural flip-flops have happened lately that make more conservative people the counter-culture as well, which is interesting to me from a psychological behavior point of view, especially when dealing with collectives.

But I have a theory. In a time not too long ago, most bedroom furniture, particularly chests of drawers and dressers, or whatever you want to use, came with mirrors attached along the back, vertically. I still have mine from growing up, and the ones in my house growing up all had them (admittedly, they were antiques, even back then and certainly now). And these days, if you look for that type of furniture for your bedroom, where most people get dressed and ready to go out in public, the units have none. You buy them separately to hang on the wall (or lean against it dangerously, as is often the case.)

I think that was probably for two, or more, reasons. One is that good mirrors are heavy and expensive and fragile. That means they add a lot of cost to the unit, but may, or may not, add as much or more value to the unit to the customer. For many people that buy furniture these days, it’s largely based on cost because furniture has become a commodity, unfortunately. That’s thanks to IKEA, flat-pack Indian operations and some good marketing. North Carolina used to be a hub for some of the best-made furniture around, but those manufacturers were largely washed away in the ’90s. And if you want to make a dresser a LOT less expensive, lose the mirror. The other reason I can figure, is that attaching it to the back of a dresser is a little tricky and you need to have A) A heavy, solid piece of furniture as a sturdy, immovable base (which most modern, common furniture isn’t these days) and B) A husband, friend or be able to hold up a 50+ pound mirror while screwing it onto the supports. Although I believe a lot of people ended up just leaning them against the walls in the end.

So, I searched around online and thought of the bedrooms I’ve seen in homes I’ve been in over recent years, which isn’t that many granted, but just for some empirical support. And I didn’t see any that had mirrors included as a piece of the furniture. You’d need to specifically look for something like that, or have it made, which hikes the cost, and quality, up a noticeable bit.

So, why was the mirror ever included? Well, there was a time when people cared about what they look like before leaving the house. That no longer seems to be the case with many Americans and visiting foreigners. For example, I have the mirror on the back of my dresser, which also has a box for my “manly” items such as cufflinks, studs, lapel stays, etc… and a great glass-topped monogrammed box which has my eyeglasses and watches and other stuff in it when I’m primpin’ to go pimpin’.

dresser box

A glimpse of my dresser top. Be sure to salute.

But removing that checkpoint is a reason for the noticeably relaxed fashions people choose to wear, and how they present themselves in public. I’m certainly not saying I’m a fashion model by any means, but I’d rather not go around looking like I just don’t care. Put yourself together somewhat, at least.

Want Your Startup to Fail? Then Don’t Do These Things.

Want Your Startup to Fail? Then Don’t Do These Things.

Successful Startup Tips

Everyone’s heard the line that half of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years, or whatever the made-up statistic is. To truly know what’s going on with startup businesses, it would be wise to narrow the discussion down to a segment, industry, geographical area, or combination thereof. So it doesn’t do much good to generalize, or even worry about what people say as far as that goes because what you should be interested in is what space you’ll be playing in. America’s business scene is too dynamic to make such generalizations, which is a great thing to be able to say, as an American. Who happens to be interested in business.

I’ve written enough business and marketing plans, interviewed enough business owners, and been in and around business at this point in my life to know why most businesses fail. And just as importantly, why and how startups succeed. 

The biggest mistake: Not making sure the numbers work.

What I see more than anything is an eagerness to rush to market before doing due diligence and research and working the numbers.

Is your product/service even marketable? Have you tested it out in the marketplace? How? There are lots of ways. But make sure people are even willing to pay money for your value proposition. And even if they SAY they would, that’s a lot different from actually laying their money down, so beware.

Trying your product out in the real world is a step to gather some numbers. Pricing is a tricky science/art. It’s helpful to know some finance and economic theory when pricing out goods. It shouldn’t be a guessing game.

A website I visit daily is Product Hunt. I was one of the early members way back when founder Ryan Hoover was rolling it out, which he did very responsibly, as a Y-Combinator project. And he’s continued to build it into a serious business that is widely used (and actually makes money!)

product hunt logo

But what Product Hunt does is introduce new products and services that are “hunted” down by early adopters, developers, designers, marketers, and other people that I like. Those goods and services are then upvoted by the public, and you can talk to the makers and discuss the products. It’s a great way to find some ways to work more efficiently and some nice design, development and writing tools.

But since it’s inception a few years ago, I’ve watched thousands of new products come and go on that site and read and talked to the makers/proprietors. And many of the products, when deployed to make money, fail as businesses. They didn’t do their homework, didn’t see if there was a marketable demand for their offering, and didn’t make sure the numbers worked. Many of the hunted products are side hustles developers and Silicon Valley types unveil there, who know a lot about programming, but nothin about business. So it goes.

But it doesn’t end there. That’s just the beginning. Forecasting sales and demand for new products is difficult. But with some hard work and smarts, you, or someone with an MBA, should be able to formulate some realistic scenarios. Work the numbers. Pay your taxes, your licensing, lease, vendors, employees, and throw in a realistic, workable marketing budget among all your many other expenses and see what your margins look like. (This is where a lot of people would/should go back to the drawing board when they see that their “Next Uber” idea may not work.)

The second biggest mistake: No Business Plan

Believe it or not, a lot of businesses start with no plan written out. Just some random goals and a pile of money and a lot of sweat, blood, and tears. If you don’t develop a plan, you don’t know where you’re going, or what to do if you get off course. You don’t know when you’ve reached important goals, haven’t set any goals, and have set sail into a stormy sea with no compass or guidance. It happens all the time.

Writing out a business plan, and it should be written, may sound like a chore, but it’s critical. If you can’t write out your business plan, then it may be worthwhile to reassess the idea.

A business plan doesn’t have to be a 300-page tome with illustrations, slide deck and citations.  It can be fairly simple, but it should be thorough and make sense. You should be able to show it to a banker and not be laughed out of the room.

There are a lot of resources for business plans. The SBA is a great place to start and more specifically, S.C.O.R.E..

The third biggest mistake: No Marketing Plan

Marketing plan? What’s that? I’ve worked for businessmen and women and companies that have been around for decades and are highly profitable that have never bothered to devise a marketing plan.

So, why bother, if they’re that successful, you ask? Because if they had bothered to either hire a marketer like me or produce a marketing plan themselves, their $100 million+ businesses very well could be $1 billion+ businesses. If that’s something they’d be interested in, and you have to assume that’s why they do what they do.

I’m not making that up, either. But strange things happen over time with privately-held companies. And the strangeness is fine. But if a marketing plan were in place and being followed and used as a guide, business owners wouldn’t end up with a profitable train wreck on their hands, which happens. A lot. It sounds like a fine scenario, minus the train-wreck thing, no? But what do you do with a business that might have 300+ employees that depend on you and no one wants to buy you out because it’s such a mess, and you have no one to pass the business on to?

In addition to serving as a guide, a well-written marketing plan also sets important goals and reigns in scope and scale. In this age of mega multi-channel marketing, there’s an urge to go haywire and position yourself everywhere possible. That’s not a wise tactic.

As with so much in life, preparation is the key to success. Please do yourself a favor and make sure that the energy, time and money you’re about to invest is going to the right places and doing the right work. It makes all the difference.