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How the Little Guys Can Win In Today’s David-and-Goliath Business World

23a1ca5Before the internet, small companies didn’t stand a chance against the Goliaths, says Corrine Sandler, a globally recognized leader in business intelligence and market research.

That’s because no war can be won without intelligence and, before the digital era, collecting actionable data and information about one’s competitors, market and customers cost a lot more than most small businesses – the Davids – could afford.

“But today, the Davids are taking down the Goliaths,” says Sandler, founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp., a global business intelligence company, and author of the new book, “Wake Up or Die” (www.wakeupordie.us), a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment.

“Thanks to the internet, the boutiques and startups have access to all kinds of free tools for gathering intelligence. They’re also much more agile than the big corporations; they can make a decision and act immediately. That’s essential in a marketplace where conditions change quickly.”

In “Wake Up or Die,” Sandler applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” – the 2,000-year-old military treatise penned by one of the greatest commanders in history – to the modern business economy. Sun Tzu held that the goal in any war is to win without ever entering into physical battle.

“By gathering actionable data and acting on it immediately, by using it to predict next moves and spot opportunities, small businesses can and are taking down the big ones without a drop of blood being shed,” Sandler says.

She offers smaller business owners these tips for acquiring and using intelligence:

• If you lack resources, make use of free or inexpensive intelligence-gathering tools. Visit competitors’ websites and collect data about them. Many businesses put a great deal of revealing information on their sites, which can benefit you. Also, make note of any changes on their sites. Google Alerts can tell you when they’re releasing new products or expanding. Use Google analytics tools such as Google Hot Trends to tell you what’s in the collective consciousness – potential consumer demand – at any given time. Google’s key word tool will give you ideas for powerful key words in search terms, and use the traffic tool to measure global volume on those key words.

• Make intelligence-gathering part of your company’s culture. From the manager who overhears a conversation in the grocery checkout line to the clerk obsessed with Twitter, every employee in your business is a potential intelligence resource. Encourage employees to pay attention as they interact with others outside the company. They may discover a nagging issue that no other company is addressing, allowing you to create uncontested market space. Or, you may learn critical information about a competitor that allows you to seize an advantage. Make intelligence gathering a company lifestyle.

• Appoint a Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) to coordinate and analyze information from a variety of sources. In smaller companies, leaders tend to rely on pipelines of internal information provided by employees who don’t understand how to use intelligence to make empowering decisions. That can render important data inactionable (unusable or simply not used). A CIO can oversee and coordinate the collection and analysis of intelligence, and brief you – the business leader – daily so that all data is actionable.

“What enables you to make smart, timely decisions is access to precise intelligence,” Sandler says. “Your advantage, as a smaller business, is that you don’t have the corporate processes and protocols that inhibit fast action.

“As Sun Tzu wrote, ‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win 100 battles without a single loss.’ ”

About Corrine Sandler

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” (www.wakeupordie.us) a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine’s company was ranked No. 2 on Profit Magazine’s list of top 50 fastest-growing companies, and Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.

 

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House Dems Sent Boehner a Message: Strike a Deal and Maybe We Can Help Protect Your Speakership

John BoehnerHe said, “I’ll get back to you.”

—By 

About two weeks ago, as tea partiers in the GOP-controlled House were forcing a government shutdown, some House Democrats sent a private and informal message to House Speaker John Boehner: If you need to break with the die-hard conservatives of your caucus to keep the government running and avoid a debt ceiling crisis, we might be able to try to help you protect your speakership, should far-right Republicans rebel and challenge you. This offer was conveyed to Boehner just as he was entering what has turned into the toughest stretch of his speakership, according to two senior House Democratic lawmakers who each asked not to be identified.

Throughout the latest showdown over government spending and the debt ceiling, political observers have noted that Boehner was in a fix because of the stubbornness of a band of 40 or so tea party firebrands within his caucus who have been egged on by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). These lawmakers were committed to a hostage-taking strategy (no government funding or boost in the debt ceiling, unless Obamacare was smashed and/or government spending was further slashed), and they could mutiny against Boehner were the speaker to forge a bipartisan compromise that bypassed them. There are 232 Republicans in the House—with 218 usually required for a majority—and simple math suggested that if 15 or so of the GOP radicals abandoned Boehner, he could lose his cherished top-dog position. Under House rules, a speaker can be challenged any time with a motion to vacate the speakership, and such a motion is privileged, meaning it zooms to the House floor, without winding through any committee, cannot be blocked by a speaker or his allies, and is subject to a full vote of the House.

But on Capitol Hill, math is not always simple. It would take only a single rebellious tea partier in Boehner’s caucus to force a vote on a motion to boot Boehner. But such a bill, requiring a majority to pass, would probably need Democratic votes to succeed. If Boehner had the backing of half of his caucus (116 members), the coup-makers would only win if Democrats joined their effort to create a bipartisan, anti-Boehner majority. But if the Dems sat out this fight—by voting present or not showing up at all—Boehner could keep his balcony, as long as the mutinous tea partiers could not enlist a majority of the House GOP. In a much more improbable scenario, Democrats could actively protect Boehner by voting to retain him as speaker (that is, voting against the motion to vacate). If such an unlikely event were to occur, Boehner could lose the support of more than half his Republican comrades and still retain the speakership.

As things look now, a tea party uprising in the House against Boehner would not be a guaranteed success. Boehner appears to have support from much of his caucus, which includes legislators who are angered by the tea partiers’ to-the-brink tactics and lawmakers who just like Boehner. There’s no clear sign that the Cruz-controlled faction within Boehner’s ranks could win over their colleagues for an attempt to oust Boehner. And there would be the tricky matter of finding a successor. The 1997 coup against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich failed partly because the plotters could not agree on his replacement. If the tea partiers did manage to throw Boehner from the train, he could run for speaker again. In that event, Boehner could stage a comeback by obtaining the votes of 201 of his 232 GOP colleagues, enough to overcome the 200 Democratic votes that would presumably go to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. This assumes none of the mad-as-hell tea partiers opposing Boehner would go so far as to vote with the Dems for Pelosi. (The vote for a new speaker is held by all members of the House, and the winner needs an absolute majority of the votes cast.) Or here’s a twist: In the vote for a new speaker, the Democrats could take another walk—which would lower the number of votes Boehner would need for restoration.

The bottom line: The tea partiers would not be in full control, if they were to initiate an anti-Boehner effort. Pelosi and her Democrats could have opportunities to affect the outcome. Certainly, Boehner would be loath to accept any assistance—even passive help—from the Democrats. It would compromise him greatly within GOP and conservative circles and dramatically undermine his already diminished ability to control his GOP crew. If it appeared that Boehner had made any common cause with the Ds, a small mutiny could turn into a wider revolt. Instead of retaining his speakership due to Democratic machinations, Boehner might well prefer to skedaddle to days of well-paid lobbying and nights of fine wine.

So how did Boehner respond to the message? “He said, ‘I’ll get back to you,'” a senior House Democrat says. Asked to comment on this informal offer, Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, said, “That’s silly.”

 

 

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Why it Makes Sense to Remodel Now

As you may have read in an earlier blog, I just had my roof redone by Saber Roofing. It wasn’t that I really needed a new roof right now, I could’ve held out for maybe another five years, it just made sense. I am pushing 60 years old, the roof on my house was 40 years old, and I figure if the new one lasts another 40 years (and the new material warranties  are more like 100 years) it will probably outlast me. Upon exploring my options, I was shocked to find that the price of this new roof was roughly the same as my parents spent on the previous roof 40 years ago.

In talking with quite a few of my friends, I have grown to believe that due to the economic recession, construction in general is about as good of value is it has been ever.

I had my house painted some ten years ago, I think I paid somewhere around $4500. In questioning the painter that did my eves as I had to have have my roof replaced, I was now quoted $3500.

The list goes on and on…

My neighbor just had four huge palm trees removed from her property and I would’ve guessed them to have been at least $5000 a piece. Guess again – $3200 apiece, felled skillfully, hauled to the dumps, and impeccable clean up afterwards.

There are other factors that make it even more attractive right now. I have been watching the (Dow Jones) stock market lately, and having it hover somewhere around 13,000 seems to be a real shot in the arm. We seem to be forgetting that it was only 2007 when it was over 14,000.

With healthcare uncertain, thanks to the GOP (grossly overweight party) and the housing market improving but still near a recent low, it certainly made sense to me to take some of the cash that I had purposely kept out of the stock market and invest it in something that I could be reasonably certain would enhance my near term future.

Hell, with mortgage interest rates near an all-time low, 15 year fixed under 3%, it makes more sense to refinance and take whatever you can out of your stagnant equity and improve your living conditions now!  Screw the kids inheritance!

Take your tax deductions, improve your standard of living, and at least put a tangible stake in the ground of something the government is less likely to be able to figure a way of taking away from you.

Instead of watching my money make zero interest in the bank, I now have a beautiful new roof over my head, wonderful new clean carpets, a new front porch to chill upon, a very utilitarian outdoor storage shed (built with the help of Smallman Construction)  a couple new trees in front of my yard, and a newly landscaped plot on the one side of my house (designed by Diane McGill…650.347.0719). Look up no-brainer in Webster’s and you will see the photographs of my house.

 

 

 

 

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