Thursday, April 29, 2010

Can You Ask "That Question?"

A friend of mine was recently invited to a suite to watch a Cardinals baseball game. Towards the end of the game he noticed the attendant bring in a full tub of beef brisket. Knowing the food wouldn't be eaten before the end of the game, he asked the attendant, "Where does this food go at the end of the game?"
"The trash," said the attendant.
The next day my friend called up his business contact with the Cardinals and arranged a meeting with a representative from Operation Food Search.
The two talked and found a corporate sponsor to purchase two big refrigerators that now sit in the kitchen at Busch Stadium. Now, the unused food from the corporate suites goes into the refrigerator each night and Operation Food Search picks it up the next morning.
During the Cardinals first home stand, close to 7,000 meals were provided thanks to this food. With 15 home stands this year, that makes 105,000 meals.
One Person. One Question. 105,000 people fed.
This story isn't really about food. It's about being "that Guy" that asks "that Question." There are probably millions of questions out there that need to be asked each day. Asking those questions can probably help thousands and thousands of people.
Are you the person that can ask that question?
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Friday, April 23, 2010

5 Business Catchphrases You Should Never Say

1. The Customer Is Always Right. No, the customer is not always right. In fact, sometimes he is a blundering idiot that sucks time, energy and resources from your profitable clients. For some customers, it's just best to kick them to the curb.
2. People Are Your Most Important Asset. Wrong, wrong, wrong. The RIGHT people are your most important asset. The wrong people can get your company in trouble faster than Ben Roethlisberger at a night club. The key is to get the right people on the bus and send the others packing.
3. It Takes Money To Make Money. Remember all of those flashy E-commerce entrepreneurs from the mid-90s. They spent a LOT of money. The result: Nothing, nada, thanks and drive home safely. Most went belly up. Why? Maybe because they spent most of their money on exotic private jets. It certainly wasn't a lack of money, thanks to every VC with a pulse and a checkbook. Don't like that example, how about Enron.
It doesn't take money to make money. It takes putting money into quality, calculated risks that makes money.
4. It's All About Hard Work. It's not about 60 or 70 hour work weeks. It's about being productive, no matter how many hours it takes. Enough said.
5. It Is What It Is? By saying this, you've pretty much become a victim. If it is what it is, too bad. Take steps to change it.
--Ron Ameln, SBM

Monday, April 5, 2010

The End Of A Three-Century-Old Firm

About four years ago before I purchased SBM, I sought out several entrepreneurs and asked advice about running a business. I wasn’t sure if I had the stomach to run a business. One entrepreneur said to me: “When you run a small business, you are always either six months from someone paying you a premium for the business, or six months from being out of business. This is always the case, no matter how well or poorly things are going at any given time.”
I thought of those comments this weekend when I read an article in St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Jaffe Lighting closing its doors. Jaffe was one of several companies SBM profiled in our January 2000 issue that focused on businesses entering their third century.
It’s hard to imagine the business no longer existing. It began as a hardware store back in 1892. The company survived the great Depression, two World Wars and numerous other trials and tribulations. When it opened for business, Benjamin Harrison was president of the United States. The company endured many obstacles over the years, but the recent economic downturn and housing crisis were too much to handle.
Just a few years ago, the company employed 45. Jaffe’s fate should be a lesson to all business owners. No matter how good (or bad) things seem to be going, there is a fine line between ultimate success and failure when it comes to owning a small business.
--Ron Ameln, SBM