Category Archives: Business Strategy

Tom Ziglar with his father, Zig Ziglar

Ziglar Philosophy Carried By New Generation

Tom Ziglar with his father, Zig Ziglar
Tom Ziglar with his father, Zig Ziglar (Photo courtesy of Ziglar, Inc.)

Tom Ziglar is uniquely qualified to talk about success. For nearly all of his 47 years, Tom has absorbed first-hand the wit and wisdom of  the man who is arguably the world’s best-loved motivator and success speaker: Zig Ziglar. And for the last 16 years, Tom has carried the responsibility for the success of the family business as CEO of Ziglar, Inc—America’s leading motivational and personal development training company. Tom and two of his sisters, Cindy Oates & Julie Ziglar Norman, represent the next generation of Ziglar bringing “The Ziglar Way” to a new generation of business people.

With his father slowing down (the elder Ziglar last spoke publicly in December, 2010), Tom is now carrying the torch of articulating the world-famous Ziglar philosophy from the stage as well as from behind his desk.

“Tom is not his father,” says David G. Johnson, founder of Sarasota-based Nourish The Dream, which regularly schedules Tom to speak at its business events. “You aren’t likely to see Tom zipping back and forth, up and down and all over the stage like you did Zig. But his message is no less compelling, and the insight he brings as the person responsible for implementing his father’s concepts—with everyone watching, I might add—is in many ways even more valuable… especially for today’s small business owner. We are proud to have Tom on our stage.”

Nourish The Dream is serving as the local host for Ziglar’s “Born To Win” small business growth workshop, a one-day event jam-packed with training that will help any business owner improve operations. Florida events are coming up in Tampa on November 15th and in Sarasota on November 16th.

“Tom and business associate Howard Partridge have created a revolutionary day of training,” says Johnson. “From phenomenal referral marketing systems to solving the number one problem facing business owners today, this one-day workshop is literally changing the lives of business owners. Many feel like their business depends completely upon them and that they can never truly get away from it. This day will change that.”

Howard Partridge is an eight-time small business owner from Houston, Texas, who started his first business out of the trunk of his car over 25 years ago. Today that business continues to produce millions of dollars a year in revenue and operates almost completely without his involvement.

“We got to know Howard and chose him to provide coaching to our small business owner clientele. He represents the highest levels of integrity and is a perfect match to the Ziglar philosophy, which is a very high standard. I’m proud to work alongside him to help small businesses become more profitable and more efficient,” says Tom Ziglar, who will be taking the “Born To Win” events to Australia with Partridge later this month.

When not in front of an audience or conducting local training workshops for business owners around the globe, Tom can be found spreading the Ziglar philosophy via next-generation media like Twitter, where he has amassed a following that numbers more than 71,000 people.

“I think Dad is a prophet and knew years ago that Twitter was coming,” says the younger Ziglar. “Almost all of his quotes are 140 characters or less!”

The full-day “Born To Win” workshop takes place on Thursday, November 15th at the Wyndham Westshore Hotel in Tampa, and on Friday, November 16th at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Sarasota. Registration is $97, which includes a spouse or business partner, and is available by phone at 214-912-5795 or online at BornToWinFL.com.

 

Ruthlessly Guarding the Valuables: Time and Attention

Ruthlessly Guarding the Valuables
Ruthlessly Guarding the Valuables

Recently, I’ve become starkly aware of how demanding our culture has become. One day last week, within the span of a just a few short minutes, I was randomly assaulted by literally dozens of phone calls and text messages.

I will certainly admit that that exact scenario is very uncommon. But since I was desperately trying to get something accomplished at the time, and since some of those texts and phone calls were from people who had made repeated attempts at reaching me already, I became particularly frustrated. (Let’s just say it’s a good thing there weren’t any sledgehammers, ponds or toilets close by… because my phone might not have survived.)

This isn’t to mention the daily onslaught of emails, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs, instant messages and face-to-face interruptions that bombard so many of us today.

In my business, large uninterrupted blocks of time are required to produce the kind of output it takes for our work to get done. I’m increasingly cognizant of the fact that this doesn’t mix well with a culture that expects a response within a matter of seconds, minutes or hours from any given interaction. It’s forcing me to recognize that two of my most valuable assets—time and attention—require bigger and better defense systems today.

Coincidentally, just as these thoughts were taking shape in my brain, I bumped into two very insightful posts today: one on “Pest Control” from Seth Godin, and the other on our “Culture of Distraction” from Matt Mullenweg. These are two of my favorite authors these days, and these posts don’t disappoint.

Matt Mullenweg actually shared a poignant 15-minute video clip featuring a talk from Joe Kraus on this topic. I’m including it here for you to enjoy.

SOPA and Your Right to Free Speech

Note: This post was originally published on the Nourish The Dream blog.

SOPA: Are You Prepared To Be Silenced?
SOPA: Are You Prepared To Be Silenced?

Here at Nourish The Dream, we are incredibly passionate about the success of small businesses and entrepreneurs. We work tirelessly to produce events and resources that will help “nourish the dream” of business ownership and success in the lives of people. And that’s why we feel it’s important to bring SOPA (and its evil twin: PIPA) to your attention.

Depending upon when you read this, the links above may not be working. That’s because Wikipedia is “going dark” for the very first time (at least for its English version) in its history in order to protest this outrageous piece of legislation.

Why Sound the Alarm?

On the surface, the idea behind these bills is honorable and even noble: to stop the illegal downloading & sharing of content protected by copyright. The biggest beneficiaries of this action are relatively obvious: record labels, movie studios and others who create content which is ordinarily sold but which is being pirated (something which, I would like to note, is already illegal).

The egregious nature of the legislation comes not from its ostensible purpose but from its far-reaching, dangerous implications. Specifically, as the legislation is currently drafted, it gives incredible powers of internet censorship to the US courts. Further, it places ridiculous demands upon search engines to no longer provide links to sites which are accused of violating copyrights.

Picture a world where Google is required to police its search results at any given moment for links to websites which have not been proven to be guilty of violating copyrights. Picture a world where your small business website can be shut down at will by anyone willing to throw out a complaint.

In short: the legislation as drafted violates the free speech rights of US citizens via censorship without due process of law.

What About Piracy?

First let me say that we make our living creating content and enjoying the wonderful protection of copyright law. Without copyrights, it would be very difficult for our parent organization to recognize revenue from the training products it creates. Similarly, here at Nourish The Dream, we value very highly the ability for us to create and distribute CDs, MP3s and (soon) DVDs of materials to empower, train & equip the business owners and entrepreneurs we exist to serve… and to, in turn, achieve revenue from those sales to fuel our mission and to give us the ability to create new & better products as we go.

It is therefore of no small significance to us that there be appropriate tools in the hands of legislators and law enforcement agencies to go after piracy and shut it down where possible. We fully understand that no retailer would leave their shop doors unlocked at night with no one watching. There are evil people in the world, and the “honor system” doesn’t always pan out well in the end. Hence the need for proper protections for those who create items of value.

All of that said, SOPA & PIPA do not place appropriate powers in the hands of the right parties to solve the issues they purport to address. Rather, they place undue power in the hands of a few while effectively crippling the business model of many valuable companies who contribute to an open, free (as in speech) internet.

Looking for something to do about it? Visit AmericanCensorship.org or sign this petition on WhiteHouse.gov.

EMR Software: Meaningful Use Incentives for Physicians

When I first launched Epiphany Marketing back in 1998, it was a side venture and a vehicle for handling smaller projects that didn’t require a full-time effort. In 2001, however, I decided it was time to make it a full-time effort and start taking on bigger projects.

One of our major clients in those early days was a software dealer that focused on providing electronic medical records software (and the related hardware like computers, scanners, tablet PCs and so on) to physicians’ practices. The company wanted to expand into Florida and we worked with them to develop and implement what turned out to be a highly successful marketing strategy.

Along the way, I became very acquainted with the ins & outs of the modern-day medical practice. Many physicians were already accustomed to using “practice management software” that handled important tasks like scheduling patient appointments and billing insurance companies, medicare & the patients themselves for services rendered.

Electronic Medical Records Software

However, at that time, it was still a relatively novel idea for a smaller, privately-owned medical practice to be using a system for handling electronic patient records (or electronic health records — EHR — as they have come to be known). Even more novel was the idea that an electronic medical records system (EMR) would be integrated with a “practice management” system so that all the patient data was in one place. At that time, if practices were using an EMR system, it was typically completely separate from the scheduling & billing functions that were traditionally part of a practice management system.

We worked with this software company for an extended client engagement which lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of about 13-14 months. I met a great many medical practice administrators and doctors in various medical specialties from all over the State of Florida during that time period. Some of the doctors that we worked with went on to become friends and even clients of ours in the years that followed.

Since that time, I have remained interested in medical software. In fact, a friend of mine and I started a consulting firm focused on working with physicians to evaluate their own needs and the EMR systems that were being marketed and sold in order to help them make wise decisions and end up achieving long-term ROI (return on investment) from their technology decisions.

But, as time went by, I spent less and less time focused on that world and more time focused on newer clients and growing our primary business. So… I spent some time away from the space.

In the last few months, however, I’ve had good reason to pay a lot more attention. And it’s interesting to me today to see that the EMR systems available now have very little to offer that’s in any way new and improved over the leading systems from 7-9 years ago. In fact, some of the more “cutting edge” systems from years ago were actually further along than where the major players are today. Sadly, many software companies have come and gone — something that seems to be a bit of an epidemic (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the world of medical software.

In fact, the churn in this unique space has created a great deal of reluctance on the part of the typical private medical practice. The doctors who own and/or manage these practices have seen and heard a lot of sales pitches over the years. In some cases, they have invested tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in systems… only to have the software company go out of business or otherwise become unable to provide the much-needed ongoing support that is so critical to a medical practice.

So it’s not surprising when the average physician is reluctant to think about making technology-related changes. To them, it’s about as much fun as a root canal… or exploratory brain surgery (unless, of course, you’re a neurosurgeon… in which case the brain surgery would be fun… as long as it’s being performed on someone else).

Meaningful Use Incentives

Today, however, the government has stepped into the game. Uncle Sam now has a vested interest in making sure that all physicians are tracking patient information (including diagnoses, lab results, prescriptions, etc.) electronically. After all, paper charts have always been incredibly inefficient. And this is all the more true when you have a major role in paying for services being rendered, medications being prescribed, and diagnostics and treatments of all kinds. Aggregating data, keeping track of which physicians are doing what, and which patients are being treated for what illness… these are all reasons to try to force medical practices to use electronic medical records software.

Setting aside the very interesting political and societal ramifications of all this for a moment… what it comes down to today is that government has set up incentives (for now) to reward doctors who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of a qualifying electronic medical records system.

As you might guess, “meaningful use” and “qualifying EMR systems” all have very lengthy (and somewhat bizarre) definitions. But the bottom line is that the first doctors recently got the very first sizable checks from the government to pay out the incentives for using these systems.

On the back side of the incentives is a deadly set of penalties for not adopting a qualifying system within specified time periods. Practices who demonstrate meaningful use early get rewarded. The ones that wait will not only not be rewarded… they’ll actually begin to see cuts in payments for services rendered to Medicare and/or Medicaid patients after a couple of years go by.

What all of this means for the average medical office is this: it’s time to take this seriously. Any medical practices that are using older, outdated systems that don’t meet new government requirements will have to find a new system if their software vendor doesn’t make the necessary enhancements in time. Medical practices that haven’t begun meaningfully using an electronic medical records system at all (you know… the ones still chasing 2-inch thick — or thicker — patient charts around the office) will be forced to purchase and implement a system.

As a patient, you’ve probably begun to see certain physicians taking advantage of technology. Some doctors have welcomed technology quite openly… and you’ll see them carting laptops around the office and typing up visit notes while you wait. Others have dragged their feet and will only begin using technology against their wishes. Some will undoubtedly retire early rather than face that kind of change. Others will be driven out of business by the expense… especially when added to the already high costs of medical malpractice insurance combined with the pressures of reduced reimbursements from insurers and government payers like Medicare and Medicaid (not to mention the high costs of providing health insurance benefits to their own employees).

Regardless, your privacy as a patient is going to be affected. It’s already been greatly reduced in recent years. Pretty soon it’s not going to exist at all thanks to Uncle Sam’s meddling in this game.

On the other hand, the arguments in favor of using EMR systems are substantial. Medical practices that have truly embraced the process and have implemented systems have been able to greatly reduce their operating costs, increase efficiency, increase the speed with which they can access and utilize needed information (very important for you when facing an urgent medical issue of any kind), and even recover from disasters (after all… do you think they had backups of their paper charts?).

The bottom line? We’ll be keeping a close eye on all the issues related to electronic medical records, patient privacy and the economics of practicing medicine in the 21st Century. It’s all about to change…

Facebook Is More or Less Done

Yes, I’m trying out Google+.

No, I’m not yet convinced that it will kill Facebook. (Is that even possible?)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

But the CNN Tech coverage of this week’s big announcement from Facebook gave an interesting air to Mark Zuckerberg’s view of where his pet project is headed.

First: the big announcement. Facebook now has video chat via Skype. While it does seem clear that they’ve been working on this for some time, it’s awfully interesting that the big announcement took place without much drama only 1 week after Google+ announced “Hangouts,” which includes group video chat. (Zuckerberg says group chat isn’t important right now since most Skype users only chat 1 on 1 via video.)

The second big announcement was apparently an afterthought: Zuckerberg confirmed that Facebook now has 750 million users.

But what seems most interesting to me about this coverage was the quote from Zuckerberg about Facebook. The CNN Tech coverage gave the impression that Zuckerberg and his Facebook pals have accomplished their big goals. Third parties will be developing new “features” for Facebook, rather than Facebook itself, Facebook isn’t afraid of Google+, etc.

One quote, in particular, stood out to me. I had to look elsewhere for the entire sentence just to be sure I wasn’t misunderstanding it.

“Social networking is at an inflection point,” he said. “Mostly it was about connecting people and there was still this question about whether social networking was going to be this widespread, ubiquitous service in the world. That chapter is more or less done at this point.”

This is certainly lifted out of context, but really… what does he mean? It certainly left me wondering if Facebook has reached a point where they feel like they can sit back and relax.

If so… all I can say is, “Wow. Great timing.”

Google is coming.

Photo: Guillaume Paumier

You Can Have Anything In Life You Want

“You can have anything in life you want, if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

-Zig Ziglar

This is one of my favorite quotes from the master motivator and sales trainer. (And I think I share that sentiment with lots of other people!)

We use this quote often when speaking to audiences and training business people in the art & science of getting the message about their products and services out to the right people. It’s been my observation that people don’t buy what they “need,” in most cases… they buy what they want.

So… understanding what the right people (those who are likely to be your future buyers) really want and finding away to get it to them is a key business philosophy.

But at the heart of this quote is something far simpler and more valuable: a philosophy of service.

All the great business people — regardless of the size of their employee rosters or the number of zeros at the end of their annual revenue numbers — have always striven for this. Ultimately, those who serve best win.

WordPress Site Hacked: NoIndex and NoFollow All Links

Yes... You Know Who You Are
Yes… You Know Who You Are

This morning I made the startling discovery that an important WordPress site belonging to one of our clients had been hacked.

A Little History

If you’ve heard me speak in the last 5 years, you know that I’m a huge believer in the power of content marketing. We regularly recommend and teach business blogging basics to our clients. We have no desire to turn them into bloggers per se, but we’ve trained them that producing fresh, high quality content is a fantastic way to achieve visibility online and even provide fodder for social media outlets like Facebook & Twitter.

So… one of our clients who hired us to build out their WordPress site and for whom we’ve provided a fair amount of training and coaching for some time now began to experience a decline in search engine rankings. In their case, WordPress is installed on a separate domain from their main website. Their main website was historically not performing well from a search engine point of view (although it was great from virtually every other perspective when it was built), so WordPress was being used as a way to help prop up the main site. And it worked. Really, really well.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this particular site began to drop in the rankings for no apparent reason. Nothing had changed that we could tell. We did a little research and paid attention to what the competitors were doing and could see nothing significant enough to account for the change. It was very much an anomaly, because all of our other clients who were doing what we trained them to do were doing just fine.

So today, quite by accident, we found the culprit.

The WPRef Plugin

We were reviewing a piece of content before it got published when we discovered that a couple of the links had a rel=”nofollow” attribute. The content writer who was working on it had no knowledge of how to manually create that type of link (we certainly don’t train people to do that… especially for links that are created intentionally for search engine purposes!), so we knew something was up.

I inquired a little further to find out where the link had come from, and the answer was, “I copied it from another post.”

Hmmmm…. well… I assumed at first that something had crept its way into an earlier post and perhaps it had been duplicated a couple of times. I wasn’t looking forward to hunting down the original link. As I heard someone say recently, it’s like looking for a needle in a needlestack! But then I noticed that there was more than one link acting that way. So… I used the WordPress “preview” function to take a look at how the new post would look, and decided to “view source code” to see if the changes I’d made were taking effect.

That’s when I noticed this:

Every link within the content had been modified with a and a rel=”nofollow” sitewide.

That would be a problem. The site’s being running for a while and there was a significant amount of content.

Digging a little deeper, I found that a plugin had been installed and given the name “WPRef”

We had backed up and upgraded the site to the latest version of WordPress on February 3rd. So… we checked our backup and found that the plugin was not contained in it. On the server, we found (via FTP) that a file called “wpref.php” had been copied to the /wp-content/plugins folder on February 10th.

Not only had the plugin been placed in that folder, it had been activated.

Checking a little deeper, we discovered that the plugin’s only function was to add a tag and a “nofollow” attribute to every outbound link in the site’s content.

This amounts to a very specific, malicious attack. The only purpose of it can be to cause Google (and other search engines too) to ignore the site’s links.

Needless to say, I was infuriated. We’ve taken steps to harden that particular site. All my searching and other efforts to find evidence that others have encountered a hack like this have turned up nothing. It appears that (at least for now) this is a one-off, one-shot hack job. It’s hard not to believe that this site was specifically targeted on purpose.

The amusing thing was that the plugin added an options panel into the “Settings” menu. Within that, it output a bunch of gibberish, including some Russion domain names.  In the “Active Plugins” area, it purported to have “code.google.com” as its “plugin site” and its author was listed as, “Sergei Brin.” I was so distracted by the infuration and frustration of the whole thing that I failed to recognize that it wasn’t just a Russian-sounding name to match the other Russian references… it’s the (botched) name of the famous Google co-founder.

Humorous.

So… we’ve saved a copy of this little piece of php code. Obviously, we’ve removed it from the site in question and have tested the site out. Our links are back to normal now. Presumably, this client’s search engine rankings will return back to their prior positioning. Actually, since the rankings were declining, we’ve stepped up the game for this client with some additional efforts and so the rankings should actually move higher than ever. So… if this was, in fact, a malicious attack which singled out this particular business… the plan has backfired.

Thanks. Whoever you are.

The Machine That Goes “Bing!”

And now for something completely different: In a bizarre move, Microsoft does something brilliant.

At first I thought,

“Well… they grabbed a 4-letter domain name that’s easy to remember… they couldn’t possibly have intended to connect it to the Monty Python sketch…”

That was when I first started seeing the bing.com commercials about the tangential search results. The commercials are humorous, although for me they purport to solve a problem I don’t have.

But now… they started using the funny little high-pitched male voice saying, “Bing!”

And really… what Python fan in the world could forget this moment from The Meaning of Life?

Until Apple managed to emerge from the 1990s somehow still in business, I had always thought of Microsoft as a corporation that was brilliant in its marketing. In retrospect, my admiration was actually aimed at what I would now classify as business strategy. Apple is without question a brilliant marketing machine, and to say they’ve successfully trumped Microsoft in that department is like saying that Alexander the Great had some military victories.

But I must admit… the “Bing!” thing is a brilliant marketing move on many levels.

Whether the “new” search engine actually offers any unique value remains to be seen.

Ready for a Strong 2009… Regardless of the Economy?

I recently learned that I’d made a bit of a faux pas. I used the word “recession” in an article I was asked to write for the newsletter that Zig Ziglar sends out every week.

It was an honest mistake. I wasn’t aware of his personal — and consequently, their corporate — policy to simply not use that word. It really got me thinking. After all, Zig has been responsible for mentoring and coaching thousands (tens of thousands? more?) of successful people to the top of their game.

So… from here on out, I’m dropping the word. It might seem like a silly or symbolic move, but I had already decided months ago that we — that is me (David Johnson) and my company (Epiphany Marketing) — weren’t participating in it.

So… we officially renamed the event that I’m privileged to be a part of next week with my good friend, Tom Ziglar. It’s new title is:

How to Attract Customers at Low Cost in this Tough Economy

Ziglar Webinar: How to Attract Customers at Low Cost in this Tough Economy
Ziglar Webinar: How to Attract Customers at Low Cost in this Tough Economy

And perhaps a better title would be, “in any economy.” The fact of the matter is that we’ve systemized some processes that any business can use — after all, it’s the very process we’ve used an honed for years in our consulting work — to bring in a steady stream of new prospects, clients and customers.

Sound good? You can do it.

In fact, the Ziglar organization has been kind enough to permit me to invite you to next week’s event.

Go watch the video clip of Zig Ziglar, Tom Ziglar and yours truly, then register. But do it quickly — the space won’t last long!

I’ll see you there next week!

The End of the China Price

When faced with significant economic pressure, American consumers and businesses tend to take action in a very predictable manner:

They do what’s in their own best interests.

Interestingly enough, that doesn’t always mean that they buy the products or services that cost the least. In fact, it is our prediction that in the months (and years) to come, a significant trend will emerge that will leave much of big business sailing off like the Titanic in the direction of the iceberg… unable to change course quickly enough.

The trend?

Buying on real value.

Real value is the opposite of the “China price.” Real value is what we look for when we realize that funds are severely limited, that the probability of increased spending power in the future is low, and that what we purchase today (or this quarter, or this fiscal year) needs to last.

Businesses that understand this trend have the opportunity to act purposefully now — before it gains steam. And it will gain steam. 2009 and 2010 will see significant increases in mortgage defaults and foreclosures, further pressuring the housing market. The global economic crisis will create significant instability in the global supply chain. This will threaten the low prices for the cheap, disposable, planned-obsolescence goods that are the bread and butter of big-box retailers. We’ve already seen this happen with Best Buy and Circuit City, where the goods are non-essentials. But it will move to Wal-Mart when we realize that the toys, household items, furniture — and yes, even clothing — that we purchase may need to last a lot longer than China intends them to last.

And the same thing will occur in the business-to-business world as well. Long term value will begin to outrank short-term utility and low cost.

This isn’t a short-term shift. This is going to be a fundamental swing of the pendulum. The old mentality: solve the problem as quick as possible with little regard for the future… and do it cheaply. This created the “China Price” and the credit boom. Remember your grandma and her shoebox full of cash? Remember how she wouldn’t part with money for anything? Watch for a modern version of it to arise.

What does it all add up to?

Significant opportunity for local, small business. Now is the time to ramp up value. Build products and services that provide significant long-term return on investment — even if it changes your ability to sell for the lowest price. Retrain your salespeople and refocus your marketing message to demonstrate long-term value. Don’t gloss over the immediate benefit, but make sure you’re justifying what you’re asking your customers to spend.

But don’t confuse this new way of thinking for some sort of gimmick. If necessary, go back to the drawing board and retool your products and services. The market is going to expose the charlatans and reward those who are authentically creating value. If you’re concerned that you’ve built your house on sand, now’s the time to find some valuable footing and pour concrete.

That, my friends, is the most valuable New Year’s Resolution your business can make.