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Sandcastles are washed away by a big wave or even the rising tide. You want your business to be a solid structure like the brick house in the story of the Three Little Pigs. You don’t want to be the straw or stick house, do you?

Straw business: I recently met a business owner who has been at it for three decades and very successful until the last five years or so (things started going bad before the Great Recession). He’s poured close to seven-figures into the business and there is no end in sight. The business is losing money at an alarming pace. He of course sees a bright future with a lot of potential.

Stick business: this owner is detached, gone many months a year, has an antiquated sales strategy and a traditional customer base that is very economy dependent. The company needs a huge cash infusion to implement a new and viable marketing plan but the owner can’t see past his own shadow and is deluded by his attitude of, “I started it, I know what it used to do and it can do it again.” All the while ignoring that the world and technology have both changed dramatically since the “good old days.”

Brick business: this company is in the contracting industry of all things. The firm has grown every year during the recession, has experienced record profits and is poised to grow even more. They have exciting new products in the works and plans for dynamic growth. One of the key factors to their success are the solid relationships they have with their customers.

Want to be like the brick business?

Have a diverse offering of products and services. Make sure you have a customer base that is large, diverse and loyal. Create teams that function together, are creative and improve productivity (for all areas of your company including sales, operations, production, accounting and any others). Build an infrastructure so you have a business not just a job or a lifestyle. Have accurate financial information in a format that allows you to make intelligent decisions

Market, market, market and be aggressive and shameless about it. Get the word out. Google your company, your products and the keywords a customer might use. The last time I Googled my name I had all 10 listings on the first page (there are other John Martinka’s BTW and often Google sneaks in other mentions based on just either my first or last name).

The Google listings came from my website, blog, LinkedIn, Rotary club and Twitter. I now have a long list showing up when searching my name on YouTube (the second largest search engine). Marketing must be consistent, constant and varied. It is everything you do to get your name or your company’s name in front of the public, especially the part of the public that are your prospective customers.

Offer value so price isn’t an issue. Here are three examples of the good, the bad and the hard to understand:

  • Apple sells expensive computers, tablets, phones and more. Everything they sell is expensive (compared to competitive products). Apple dominates the phone, tablet and MP3 markets. They are a force in the personal computer market (not the corporate market). They are the worlds most valuable company. Why are they on top when everything costs so much? Because they are innovative, design savvy and emphasize quality.
  • We recently played the semi-annual game with Comcast where we have to call in and ask what specials they have for existing customers because they make incredible offers to new customers but ignore their loyal customers unless you call them. Not to discriminate, I’m guessing it’s the same for all television providers, cable or satellite. Obviously, my friends who do the same thing and I all feel the value to price ratio is out of whack so we have to get the price down.
  • Look no further than the airline industry to see a convoluted mess when it comes to the value and price relationship. We’re constantly bombarded with ads on why a particular airline is the best to fly, treats you the best and deserves your business. Yet try to figure out the pricing and even the airline reservation employees get exasperated when asked for the reasoning behind the pricing and the constant changes. For a flight for my wife to visit her mother the price changed every time we fine-tuned her schedule. It went down 20%, up to the original price, back down and up again. It seems that Southwest has figured it out (and they may change fares like the others, I don’t know). They state they’re an economy, no-frills and fun carrier and live up to it.


Sandcastles are for the beach, not your business platform. Build a solid foundation, a brick business and you won’t regret it. Especially when it’s time to exit and you can sell it with style, grace and for more money.

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