How Money Is – And Isn’t – Made In Business
By Dan S. Kennedy
“Nothing Happens ‘Til Somebody Sells Something”
I mentioned inside, that one of the people who visited with me at a recent book signing, Tripp Braden, does some work with Warren Buffett, and a lot of work in the private equity investment world. He and I compared notes, as I have a fair amount of experience with client-companies sold and bought by private equity investors. He agreed with my chief observation: they are usually even more clueless than the operators of the businesses they acquire about marketing. Most of their improvement forays have to do with cutting “fat” and squeezing profits out of reduced costs, cutting a whole up into pieces and selling some, synergy with other things they own, and multiplying what’s working by pumping in capital. In other words, bean-counting and re-arranging of piles of beans. They often bring a religious belief in the value of replacing entrepreneurs with “professional management.” Apple is a great example of the fallacy of such faith – after forcing Jobs out, they later had to go beg him to return and reinvigorate the moribund sloth the professional managers had turned the company into. Innovation and marketing had been de-balled in his absence.
It’s worth noting that when Lee Iacocca saved Chrysler from the edge of extinction, he did cut executive-suite costs with a bloody axe, he did re-structure company debt, but he also hastily created new products – including the first American made convertible put out in years and the mini-van loaded with cup-holders, and he grudgingly stepped forward as commercial spokesperson to sell the new, radical warranty he wrote. If you ask him, as I once did, personally, what saved the day more than anything else, he says: selling. Of course, Iacocca was a renegade his entire career.
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Since the 2008 crash, and now, you see a lot of TV and print ads for gold – gold bullion and gold coins, as well as silver, and numismatics, pitched as reassuringly tangible, hard assets you can hold in your hands, store in your vault. The best of the TV commercials are those starring the actor William Devane. The guy who largely invented the whole business in the 1970’s was James Blanchard III, and if you can find a copy of his autobiography, Confessions of a Gold Bug, published in 1990, I strongly urge reading it, for many marketing, business, financial and life ideas. Blanchard was an ultimate Renegade Millionaire. A visionary entrepreneur. And a phenomenal salesman – of his ideas as well as his business. (Blanchard influenced me, by the way, in my evolving approach to my business. Specifically, check pages xi and 78-79 of his book.)
I’ve just completed a manuscript for a forthcoming book in my No B.S. series, No B.S. Guide to Brand-Building by Direct-Response, co-authored with the Iron Tribe Fitness guys, including chapters from several others, and an exclusive interview with Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul. As I worked on the book, and completed the final chapter, The Mouse And The Bunny, about Disney and Hefner, I was forcefully reminded that almost all great and powerful brands were raised up and driven by individuals who were both visionary leaders and outstanding salespeople, representing their enterprises. This is true of brands that bear their names, like Disney, or brands that don’t, like Apple. I’m not fond of his late-life politics, but Warren Buffet is a terrific salesman for Berkshire-Hathaway. Would you even know of the company were it not for Warren The Promoter? Businesses and brands without a human face, a visible driving force, a visionary, and a convincing salesperson – ideally, something of a Barnum – operate under extreme handicap. Achieving giant size, the need may be relieved. But it’s still a handicap.
Mr. Gamble of Proctor & Gamble said, “Any fool can make soap. It takes a genius to sell it.” What Renegade Millionaires know, that so many others do not, is that nothing happens until somebody sells something – and they’d better not depend on somebody else to do the selling.