3 Entrepreneurial Tips from Donald Trump’s First ‘Apprentice’

You might have noticed that a certain Donald Trump is getting a lot of attention these days. The chatter about Mr. Trump, as both presidential candidate and business mogul, is a reminder of his time as star of The Apprentice—and lessons that other business people were able to draw from a group of budding entrepreneurs. It reminds me specifically of Bill Rancic, the first winning ‘Apprentice’ and a very successful entrepreneur in his own right. Bill founded Cigars Around the World in a 400 square-foot studio apartment years before entering The Donald’s orbit.


Two Out of Three Is Bad, Part 3: When the Management is Missing

A client in the technology/analytics space was expanding rapidly. This meant bringing in new sales people, account managers, and technical experts. They were hiring people all over the U.S., especially on the coasts where a lot of their clients are located. Their solution is complex, and their customers split between big end-users and smaller service providers who bundle the technology into their own offering. This would be a difficult management transition for any company.


Mangled Message: Dumb and Dumber?

Our latest Mangled Message for your enjoyment, edification, and comments comes from American Airlines.

American lost track of the luggage of a hearing-impaired couple (James Moehle and Angela Huckaby) who were returning from a vacation in Hawaii. Once the bags were found and delivered to the couple’s Texas home, this note was included. The couple was offended by the “dumb” reference and has let their feelings be known to ABC and other media outlets. 


When the university flunks marketing research

As I prepare for a guest lecture to a group of MBAs I am reminded of a lesson in Marketing Research 101 from Drake University. It wasn’t the kind of case study that Drake University would want to brag about, however. As a reader told me a few years ago when the story broke, “I thought it was something from The Onion. I couldn’t imagine that a university would use ‘D+’ as its marketing message…at least not with a straight face.”

Well, there are some things you just can’t make up. Drake–a very solid institution, by the way–managed to violate some basic tenets of strategy and research and, in the process, tick off much of its faculty, staff members and alumni.


Customer Conversation Challenge 4: Culture

Does your company’s culture enable a great customer conversation?

“Culture” can seem like such a big, squishy concept that it’s (1) nearly impossible to define, (2) difficult to connect to daily behaviors, and (3) an imposed force which can’t be changed. My experience is that none of these are necessarily true.

I like the pithy definition of culture from Alan Weiss: “that set of beliefs which governs behavior.” That means culture is something that can indeed be changed, and not just by the founder or CEO. Essentially, if managers or teams can change some pieces of the belief system then the culture will change over time as well.


Two Out of Three is Bad, Part 1: When the Message is Missing

While doing interviews for a new client, I spoke at length with one of the company’s highly decorated, A-player-type sales people. He was no fan of his company’s website. “I steer prospects away from it,“ he admitted. “It has a lot of words but doesn’t say anything.”

I asked him for specifics. He showed me a section that actually read, “our platform facilitates world-class solutions for our customers’ business 

problems.” Yikes—he was right. The company’s self-focused and vacuous message only served to make them sound like everyone else.

While working with many different types of companies, I have discovered that three components—Message, Messengers, and Management—contribute to a company’s success (or failure) in customer conversations. Some organizations are strong in two components but need to address weakness in the third. In a case when the Messengers and Management are in place but the Message itself is weak, the result is commoditization in the eyes of potential buyers.   ...

Customer Conversation Challenge 2: Consistency

“The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

"We just aren't on the same page."
"It seems like everyone is just rolling their own."
"Why can't we all sing from the same hymnal when we're out with customers?"

If you hear these phrases around your organization--or even catch yourself saying them--then there is ample evidence of inconsistency in your customer conversations. It’s common to have disconnections among units (Marketing, Sales, Service), geographies, product/service lines, or what potential customers hear online versus offline. I think that evolving work patterns, where more is happening virtually and teams rarely are in the same space at the same time, exacerbate the gaps. So have pressures on training and onboarding budgets.

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