Does Your Business Story Have a Great Cover?

OPM The Restaurant without a cover.

They say “Don’t Judge a book by it’s cover”, and as an author I can tell you that 80% of the book buying public does.  The fact is the cover sells the book.  As a business builder and now consultant, I can tell you that businesses have the same problem.
The fact is that books and businesses have a lot in common.  The first thing a book buyer sees is the cover.  Normally that is true for a a business, and very muh so for restaurants.  Landry’s CEO Tillman Fretita has this figured out.  All of the Landry’s restaurants have a great cover.  You know a Rainforest Cafe when you see one, and I bet the first time you did you wanted to go in.
The food and staff can be ok if the cover story of your restaurant gets lots of people in the door.  If you have a great staff and world class food but no one comes in the only people who will care are the banks, investors and your landlord.
Disney has broken this code too.  In fact across the board successful retail businesses have learned that the cover is the invitation to read the story.  Apple’s simple clean lines and Apple logo aims squarely at Apple fans and whispers “welcome to the club”.  A cover doesn’t have to scream like the Rainforest Cafe, but it does have to invite you in to try the story inside.
That brings me to a restaurant in Huntington Beach California.  OPM.  For quite some time the building sat empty, and after a long buildout, the “Tap House” opened.  It closed so quickly that I didn’t even get to see it.   By all accounts, the restaurant should have been a success.  The few fans it had were shocked when it closed.
The problem at the Tap House is the same as the problem at OPM.  The book has no cover.  By the time you see the sign you are past the driveway and looking for the next watering hole.  Given the name of the Tap House, the cover could have been as simple as cutting 50 kegs in half and glueing them on the outside of the plain white stucco building with Liquid Nails.
Everyone would see 100 half kegs from the 405 and know exactly what to expect and where they would find a good relaxed place for a beer.  Instead you could only see the white box.
This past week I did stop into OPM  I had to plan ahead otherwise I would have missed it and ended up at Wahoo’s again.
OPM Huntington Beach
OPM A Story without a cover
Dressed like a local (shorts, surf related T-shirt and flip flops) I went in and expected something like what I was told the Tap House was.  Many smart restauranteurs, take over a good idea and fix the one item that killed the business.  Sometimes the issue that kills a business is the owner, sometimes its the staff and occasionally even the food.  In this case I was sure it was the lack of an attractive cover.  In my perfect world I get there before close and help the owner find the path to profitability.
OPM didn’t change the cover and Tap House wasn’t gone that long.  Since only the sign out front changed on the building, quite frankly I was looking for the old ale house interior of the Tap House.  Ideally, I could present my proposal to consult on the exterior design.  The white no window block of stucco remained unchanged.
When I approached the very narrow walkway that goes to the front door, it was blocked by the hostess who was chatting up a departing patron.  The hostess was a pretty typical twenty something hostess in a black dress with a nice smile.  I should have realized right there that ale houses don’t have a hostess in a black dress, but I was distracted thinking, this walkway has got to go.
When I entered I noticed a small bar to the left with only one person sitting there.  The hostess quickly ran in and greeted me as did a rather casually dressed man.  The two didn’t fit.  If the casually dressed man was the owner or manager, he needs to dress up or stay in the shadows.  He was confusing the story of OPM.  If you read my blog or books you know that having a consistent story is key to success in business.
Looking around the inside, the story was a mixture of Casablanca meets middle east nightclub meets upscale east coast dining.  Very different from the normally laid back lifestyle of Huntington Beach.  Huntington Beach is one of the most popular surfing and beach towns in the US.  With the headquarters of Huntington Beach’s first Billion Dollar company, BJ’s restaurants, just a few blocks over, OPM is a standout.  Only on the inside that is.

Inside OPM Restaurant
Inside OPM
In Huntington Beach most of the higher end (price wise) restaurants have a more casual tone than similar places in Newport Beach for instance.  OPM didn’t get the memo on the Huntington Beach dress code I guess.  More Vans and Volcom, less Tommy Bahama’s and Tory Birch.
Sitting at the bar, I was pleased to find a very nice Happy Hour menu with a $5 margarita and a couple of decent beers.  To my wife’s dismay I neglected to look at the wine menu, so look for an update next month after I take here there for her thoughts on the place.
Eventually one of the Tap House regulars grabbed the seat next to me and he filled me in on the Tap House.  He then gave me his thoughts on OPM.  At the end he really didn’t know what to think about the changes.
As a business consultant I have to admit I was stumped.  What cover do you put on an upscale blingy restaurant in a laid back surf town?  More importantly what cover do you put on it to get those laid back surfers in the door?  After all within a few blocks there is a Wahoo’s with a full bar, a BJ’s and a shopping center loaded with expensive places to get a good drink.
The rich in Huntington Beach are normally seen in flip flops and sweat shirts all over town.  The only giveaway they aren’t surf bums is that they get into a Rolls, Bentley, Ferrari or some other exotic when they are done shopping or dining.  OPM’s parking lot doesn’t look inviting to those cars.  No Valet, no extra wide door ding avoidance spots, just a plain parking lot in front of a pretty vanilla office center next door to the white stucco block that houses OPM.
As I sipped the $5 margarita served in a short glass, I thought to myself, small price, small drink.  Eventually I paid the tab and left, a little disappointed that I did’t have a plan for it’s cover nor did I have a plan to keep people coming back for more once they came in.
The staff was nice, the quality appeared to be there, I didn’t hear any music so I can’t comment on the true ambiance, but….
Getting in my car I  looked at the blank white palette that is the outside cover of OPM and wondered what I could do to keep this place alive.

Being The Best Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get The Job.

Recently I was talking with an aspiring actor and he asked about my training and work.  He had no credits and a masters degree from a major school.  So why can’t he get work?

We worked on very similar scenes for the presentation and he smoked it.  I didn’t see what I looked like on camera, but the audience reaction was “eh”, so I am feel comfortable telling you he did a better job.  What happened next is the telling part.

The casting director is working on a film.  I really don’t fit any of the parts and neither does the other guy.  I still wrote down the CD’s information and agreed to keep in touch hoping someday he’ll have something for me.  When I sent a postcard last month updating my status, he called me directly to thank me for the update.  He said that so far, I am the only one who followed up from the group of 18 people he saw that day.  He made a comment during our conversation that he was “looking forward to working with [me].”

As much as I would like to say all of the businesses I built grew because we were the best at what we did.  The truth is, we were pretty average.  What I learned was follow up.  When you take the initiative to contact them, you make their life easier.  Nobody wants to do anymore work than they have too.  So why not do that little extra and make it easier to hire you even if you cost more, aren’t quite as good, or don’t have as much experience as the other guy.  I didn’t build any of my companies and try to learn every single thing I could.  Instead I tried to find out what the customers really wanted, and what made it difficult for them to get it.  Once I knew that, I would find a way to make it easy and bingo, we had profits.

Being a great actor doesn’t make you a working actor, and being a working actor doesn’t mean you are a great actor.

Whatever you do, if you just make it easy for the customer to get what he wants, you will have more work than you know what to do with.


Get’er Done.

That famous comedic quote actually says a lot.  The question is are you “getting er done”.   Why Not?

I used to think that I was being polite and courteous by putting other people’s needs first.  I felt like I was getting the job done.  The truth is I was getting their job done.  All this did was add stress to my life because I wasn’t getting my job done.

“A Fanatic is a person who redoubles his efforts after forgetting his original aim” George Santayana

One day I woke up and realized I was working herder and harder for someone else’s goals, someone else’s “Aim”.

That morning, I decided to make a change.  I started getting my job done first.  Work started getting better.  I started taking care of my things around the house.  My home life got better.  Very quickly I learned that by taking care of me and working on my aim first it does two things.  First it gives me more time to help others and second it helped other people start being responsible for their aim because they knew I wouldn’t be able to do it for them.

Collectively, we did more.

In baseball, the pitcher can’t catch while he is pitching.  He can’t hit at the same time either.  In life you can only do one thing at a time.  If you stop pitching to catch, who will pitch?

Keep your aim, find more success in less time.

What’s in a “Productive Weekend”?

Last night my wife said, “Finally a productive weekend, after three years we finally got the living room finished.” I wasn’t sure if that was a dig or what.

We did get a lot done thanks to a three day weekend.  We put off all the normal chores until Monday and spend all day Saturday and Sunday, cleaning, sanding and painting the living room.

The week before I put in way more work cutting up the walls to add wires for a new push button high efficiency fireplace and a new 65″ flat panel TV I picked up on sale.  Ripping the place apart wasn’t “productive” I guess.

It is funny how we put things off because we don’t feel productive until we finish a task.  Have you ever looked at your “to do list” and started doing just the things you knew you could finish?  Didn’t it feel good to check all those boxes?  Or did you feel like you put off the big thing because you might not have finished it?

One of my early mentors used to misquote Mark Twain and say “Swallow the big frog first”.  After years of trying I learned that it is much easier to eat the big frog like an elephant, one bite at a time.

In the case of our living room, there was over a months worth of planning, preparation and finish work.  Two subcontractors were involved since I don’t do gas (plumbing) or sheetrock.  I’ve tried the sheetrock work and if my plumbing is that bad, my house would burn down.  I know my limits.

When we bought the house the only thing in the living / dining rooms we did was the carpet.  Everything else was left as it.  The drapes were nasty when I took them down finally.

To get the project done I had to break the big items into a shorter list of little items I could get done like:

1. remove drapes

2. cut holes for wires in wall to TV

3. cut holes for electrical to TV

4. drill holes in studs for HDMI and speaker cables

5. drill holes in studs for electrical wire, aka Romex.

6. Pull HDMI and speaker wires from stereo to box for TV

Well you get the idea.  By breaking it down into shorter steps, I felt like I could actually make progress on the job.  Now it is done and it looks great.

Use this technique next time you catch yourself leaving big items on your “to do list”.


Finished TV Project


Money, Master The Game – Tony Robbins.

Tony Robbins New Book – Money, Master The Game.

It is amazing how many people don’t understand how money works. More importantly how many people trust their money to an expert without knowing what that “expert” really does. If you have money in any kind of mutual fund, you need to read Money, Master The Game.

Tony Robbins interviewed some of the smartest minds in finance and money management and breaks it down in to simple usable nuggets of information. Not a bunch of numbers like the mutual funds tell you.

Think your mutual fund is making 15% this year? Think again! Tony Robins shows you where your money really is going and gives you some easy to use tools to make better decisions for your own money management, retirement and investing.

8 Success Tips From Racing Cars

Last weekend I flew to Texas to drive with my team aka “Itchn to Win” in the 24 Hours of LeMons series.  The annual race is called the Gator-O-Rama.  In the Spring they call it “Yee Haw LeMons Texas”.

When you don’t really have cell service, and you live at the track for three days, you have a different perspective on things.  Success in a 24 hour race involving a crap can car has a lot of applications in life.

1. Have a Purpose – Every team arrives with dreams of winning. Never stop dreaming.

2. Be Flexible – Things change and you can’t control them.  When you get hit with a one hour penalty for passing under yellow 5 times, your purpose might be to finish. Remember things change because we are human.

3. Be More Flexible – When your transmission falls apart during testing on Friday, your new purpose might be to have a car in the race at all.  More than once teams worked all day and all night to get on the track for the last five laps on Sunday.  Remember things change that you can’t control.

4. Be Even More Flexible – An Airline computer problem might make your purpose just getting there at all. Remember things change that you can’t control.

5. Never Give Up – See #2-4  The lead car was way ahead after a rainstorm.  It was an Audi Quattro and could run circles around all the two wheel drive cars.  It died with just three hours to go.  First place for 22 hours, then out of the top ten in two.  The race was on in the last hour with only one lap separating numbers two through five.  Remember things change, and they aren’t always bad.

6. Take A Break – Cars Need Pit Stops, So do people and businesses.  In a 24 hour race you need to stop every one to three hours depending on fuel burn.

7. Change Drivers – See number 6.  Even when life is going perfectly, you need to let someone else have a turn.  Businesses have management shifts, relationships need control shifts.  Success doesn’t mean you are always in the drivers seat.  Sitting in the seat too long and you lose focus on why you are there.  You might become numb to your purpose.  Get out of the seat and see what the other people do.  Let them grow and help them when they need it.

8. Change Jobs – In this type of racing everyone pitches in everywhere.  One pit stop you fuel, the next you man the fire extinguisher, the next you drive, then you rest.  You might not be the best at every job, but at least take a turn to understand the job and appreciate the people who do it every day. George Kalogridis started at Disney resorts bussing tables.  Today he is the president of Walt Disney World Resorts.


Itchin To Win Pit Stop
Scott Gets In The RX-7

GatorORama 14 patch small

Does FaceTime Need A Keypad?

With the melding of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite and iCloud drive, you might start feeling a bit beholden to Apple.  I know I feel like I just crossed the point of no return.

Mac on my Desk, iPad running my home lighting system and alarm, GeoTracking so my house “knows” when I am home or away.  Even then I could pretty easily go back.

The most important communications in my house is still the phone. Customers, agents and occasionally my family call me on the phone.  Email, I got that on the phone too if I need it, but lets face it, 90% of all the email I get I won’t ever read.  I do answer the phone.

Cell reception in my home is a joke.  Anytime I change rooms the call drops.  For $100 I fixed that problem and bought a wireless phone system that connects to my cell via bluetooth.  So I could answer my iPhone from my office and the balance was restored, or so I thought.

Then along comes OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.  Suddenly my Mac is ringing and the caller id is on my screen.  I can’ answer calls on my computer?  Sure enough it works.  Well sort of.

I have a Google Voice number so that I can get better at call screening. The first call that comes in is a name that many actors would know, and was a call I wanted to take.  A little exited to talk on my new toy,  I answered the call and the voice says “press one to answer”.  My caller went to Voicemail.

Later, a call comes in from our service.  Again I need to enter a code to get the message.  Message missed.

Quickly I realized that without a keypad, any call coming in that might bring me paid work I can’t get.  So much for the great fun of answering my calls on my computer.

Until FaceTime gets a keypad, it’s still just FaceTime.

OSX Yosemite – Should You Upgrade?

If you are thinking about upgrading to OS X Yosemite, well we did.  In my office I made the mistake of upgrading our iPhones to 8.0.0 way too early.  8.0.1 didn’t fix anything, in fact it got worse.  If you follow my other posts, 8.0.2 had its own set of issues caused by iCloud drive.  A new feature I don’t yet understand.

Flaw number one with my early upgrade plan was that I could no longer get to my iCloud docs on my iPhone or iPad.  Yup I upgraded it too.

So when Yosemite came available on the 16th, I waited.  After four days I didn’t see any really worrisome blogs about Yosemite, so I gave it a shot.  First I upgraded my Mac Mini, and then during the boredom of watching the upgrade, I decided to go ahead and upgrade my MacBook Air.

Plan not so good.  For several hours I was without both computers.  I decided to go flying, since the surf was getting rough by that time.

When I got back both computers had upgraded, and list of about a dozen apps that needed to be upgraded popped up.  On our main computers Parallels was the critical ap, and that one came with a $49.99 upgrade price tag.  We need it, I paid it.

For the laptops, it was mostly Apple software that needed upgrading.  The first thing I noticed after waiting through all the upgrade was my password protected Numbers file of my password list no longer needed a password!  Wow was that odd.

On our big dual screen computers, the scaling for any resolution but the maximum for the screen looked a bit blurry.

For the MacBook Air, the upgrade issue was the lack of space.  When I looked at the hard drive “other” was taking up the most space, and I had no idea how to know what that was, so I backed up every document, video and photo and deleted them to get enough room to do the upgrade.

I am told there is software that will help me figure out what all this “other” stuff is, but why can’t I just click it and get a listing to work through?

After the upgrade was done, another GB of free space opened up.  That was the good news.  I don’t know if the OS is smaller by a GB or what happened but I went from 12.1GB of free space after deleting every document and photo from my MacBook Air to 13.4 GB.  You tell me.

So far, no other issues.  I’ll keep you posted and if you see something different, please post it here so we can all learn from it.

Who Do You Listen Too?

One thing there is not shortage of is advice.  Everywhere you go there are people who have ideas, opinions and you guessed it, advice.
So how do you know what advice is good?
For over a year I took business advice from a guy who had all of the “trappings of success”.  New car, wife didn’t work, she just spent all day in the gym, new house and all the toys.
24 months later he was out of business.  Fortunately I figured out his advice was just regurgitated nonsense from business magazine articles written by people who’ve never run a business.
The truth is you don’t until you follow someones advice and you figure out it is good or bunk.
I have a simple rule now that has worked quite well.  Be careful who You listen too.  If they aren’t at least three times more successful than I am in a given area,  I listen, file and move on.   Now if I can’t verify the measure of success I ignore it.
When I wanted advice on writing better books, I sought out Brian Tracy, a best selling author of books similar to mine.
When I wanted to learn how to make more money in Real Estate, I went to a guy making millions of dollars each year in Real Estate and Millions more as a speaker and teacher.  Most of those “gurus” make money selling information, not doing what they sell.
All of the easy guide books are the result of a process to get something done.  If I couldn’t make it work easy, I didn’t bother to write a book about it.
So, next time someone is offering you advice, make sure it actually worked for them.  It will save you a lot of time and money.