Vanilla is still a good flavor -- just don't forget the sprinkles

By: Bill Van Eron Monday October 1, 2012 Tags: Bill Van Eron

By Bill Van Eron

Marketing Innovation Strategist at Headwaters Marketing

I read voraciously, yet am too impatient and too enthralled with innovative projects to read a full business book. That said, I quickly grasp the meat of most essential business and new thinking books.

Had I not been on the bleeding edge, I may have had time to write a few. I always admire how some do it. I guess I prefer the sport over theory. Still playing and loving the game. Besides, when you are my age, you get it faster as we were there when it all started.

Kind of like Flash Gordon recognizing Iron Man.

What up, bro?

So, for those of you who may skim blogs voraciously, I will shift my attention -- and hopefully yours -- to somewhat essential yet vanilla aspects critical to being a successful home-based entrepreneur.

Then, if you don't mind, I will add a few sprinkles of my own. To me, vanilla alone just doesn't get me jazzed. If vanilla ice cream was all there was, I would be 30 pounds lighter...

So I just read this helpful article "25 common characteristics of successful entrepreneurs" Check it out if just to get the basics and a vanilla rush.

The article opens with, "Do you have what it takes to get through hard times? Here are the traits that help home-based business owners thrive."

That got my attention, as it appears to be a question that does not get answered as accurately as most would expect. I like that the author lists characteristics and provides an easy checklist system, so his book may be worth the read.

I also liked that he focused on home businesses as they are exploding -- especially in the professional services category -- and being one myself, I had to check it out.

He goes on to cover the following, most true to vanilla flavoring with numbers 6, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16 at the chocolate sprinkle level (essential, but not entirely new info):

1. Do what you enjoy.
2. Take what you do seriously.
3. Plan everything.
4. Manage money wisely.
5. Ask for the sale.
6. Remember it's all about the customer.
7. Become a shameless self-promoter (without becoming obnoxious).
8. Project a positive business image.
9. Get to know your customers.
10. Level the playing field with technology.
11. Build a top-notch business team.
12. Become known as an expert.
13. Create a competitive advantage.
14.  Invest in yourself.
15. Be accessible.
16. Build a rock-solid reputation.
17. Sell benefits.
18. Get involved.
19. Grab attention.
20. Master the art of negotiations.
21. Design your workspace for success.
22. Get and stay organized.
23. Take time off.
24. Limit the number of hats you wear.

25. Follow-up constantly.

How many of you entrepreneurs now feel aware, alive, prepared, newly informed and ready?

Me, after I read this, I was looking for the epithet on a tombstone that spoke to a life led by the book -- prepared but boring.

To be honest, all of this is important but when the music plays and you can't dance, you might as well walk over to the corner and blend in with the paint.

To me, being one who has survived and thrived -- this is yesterday's news.

My rules are very different. Kind of like the poster series "Demotivators" that followed "Successories".  A "Successories" poster might have a pretty picture of a guy striving to climb and a saying that failure is just a stepping stone to greater heights. A "Demotivators" poster would say: Failure. Once or twice is OK but any more, maybe it's your style.

I related far better to the sick version. I think there's a part of all of us that relates better to humor and new truths, especially entrepreneurs facing a world that has few rules, yet can be unforgiving and customers who see traditional efforts as superficial, still respect credibility as king.

So my suggestions for entrepreneurs, as based on a home-based marketing and business development bent, are:

1. If you are a slob -- as I am -- make your home office somewhere far away from humanity. OK, call it a man cave.

2. Get a dog, especially one that bites so you can get that fat butt away from the computer and exercise.

3. Get a high-powered electric collar so when a client calls and your dog barks, you are professional.

4. Anything you do not do well, learn fast or find someone good as it is an extension of you. Yes, you feel me - hire better.

5. Never hire a telemarketer to sell you. Get bruised. Get out. Talk and listen. Be helpful.

6. Understand your own gifts and then package them to do work that matters to you and others. Make sure that gift isn't bad breath.

7. Forget you when you are helping people and businesses because it's all about them.

8. Don't go overboard. Recognize rat holes before someone shuts out the lights and a gruff voice says good night, princess.

9. Ask your customers how they define a butthead and don't be that person. I hear many small businesses in Fort Collins joking about the marketing rep who knocks on their door saying, "I am here to help you," before they understand anything about the business. Invest in getting there and maybe your opinion of help will be welcomed. Same with blogs, prospecting...lead with real insight and invest some time.

10. If you believe you can help others, that's great. Create easy entry points and build trust.

Here are a few sprinkles with a flavor I have come to relish:

1. Always feel comfortable talking to cynics, analytical people and pragmatists as they will only make your idea stronger. We have an abundance to choose from. But avoid the easy yes.

2. Kill 800-pound gorillas fast, make them pets or embrace your wild side. Deal with them, as few respect anyone ignoring their existence. Do it tactfully, but do it.

3. Make sure you are not someone else's 800-pound gorilla unless you are in prison.

4. Also seek out kindred spirits, as together you can do great things.

5. Always think bigger and work backwards. What can you apply your skills and insight to that will impact many in a positive way?

6. Understand everything has a system and no system is immune from change, improvement or prevailing truths. Don't be a victim. Be a change agent and try to do it as a win-win engagement.

7. Creative thinking is both a gift and a learned discipline, just like critical thinking is. Together, they are the most powerful force on earth.

8. Invest in two-way relationships and make them meaningful. I'd rather have a dozen close friends than 100 acquaintances.

9. Make sure you are passionate about what you invest your time in. Most people say this, but the secret sauce is your own attitude. If I were 30 I could not do all on my plate today and if I do one-quarter of it, I will be a household name in the dog world. That's exciting!

10. Recognize imposters and false edifices. They're everywhere. Don't criticize them. Help them and do better.

11. Make who you are and what you stand for meaningful, fun, open, engaging, accountable and sincere. Don't bother people, be superficial or get super detailed. If they want your help, they know how to call. But do offer free helpful advice on occasions where you have something of value to share.

12. Go walk the dogs somewhere special. Make it fun as they also know when you are just going through the motions.  And they bite.

Good luck out there, fellow entrepreneurs. Life has enough BS and rigor. Get through what you need to even if it is vanilla, but look for those sprinkles that make it all worthwhile.

So how do you define the sprinkles that make your business more meaningful?
Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

For Bill Van Eron, life & work are all about conscious observation and earning our needed humanity high bar. Whether Bill was an art director or lead designer in NYC, the most demanding marketing environment, or shaping a more relevant brand for soon to be major companies in Denver, or across his 25-year career in HP, as its champion for progressive enlightenment, diversity, inclusion and the highest relevance, which followed every project, Bill stays inspired to help others shape a better world, lives & work as connected to greater attention to our humanity, creativity and value-creation. All as vital to any organization's greater success. Bill now is championing the first and most conscious innovations that resolve challenges to our planets environment, as well as business and government realizing each’s greater purpose and brand value. Tired of conventional approaches and willful ignorance, Bill was recruited as one who can champion each solutions authentic relevance. Bill hopes Colorado and Fort Collins can open up and get in flow, as a community Bill & his wife only wish the best for as also enabled with a view all others benefit by, whether they see it initially or not.