Blondie was great. No, not the ultra cool band from the 80s, but Liz Blondie. Liz was an inspiration to just doing it. Maxing out credit cards, having to deal with HR headaches but having no HR staff, and getting things done the old fashion is what stuck out to me about Liz. I was amazed to hear about someone who knew nothing about an industry but just decided to learn and go out and do it, and that’s what she did.
She is a Detroiter for sure and is active on the ground level of getting Detroit into 2.0. Of course there are the Roger Penskes and the Dan Gilberts we are going to have to thank for making Detroit truly 2.0, but I hope we don’t forget the Liz Blondies as that happens. Small business is just as vital to a city as big business.
Our guest speaker on Tuesday was a testament to ground level execution. More than any other speaker he seemed to be one who we could most relate to. He’s still in the struggle of becoming a success and not yet at the point of making 6 figures plus a year, but instead has his eye on the prize of hitting that next level of success.
He used resources such as SCORE, a resource I plan to tap into in the very near future. And once again he spoke on the importance of networking, even mentioning BNI as a group he uses to network through. Having been to many BNI groups myself as a subsitute, I found it interesting that a man in his line of work would even think to use it. Simply another example of how the inches we need are all around us. In a group typically filled with real estate agents, lawyers, insurance salesman and other service based individuals he realized that for a few hundred bucks a year there could be a chance for him to network with someone who could help him. And that’s exactly what happened and helped lead him to securing an important deal for him.
All and all, the Purfect Opener seemed a little strange to me. As it should, since I’m no where near the target demographic. But his visit taught us how using your previous experience, networking and filling a need ultimately helps lead to innovation.
Lisa Toenniges of Innovative Learning Group was different than most of the speakers we had come in, but different in the best kind of way. First, she didn’t give a speech! She sold me at that. She let us ask her questions and get the most out of the experience. That aside, she spoke in down to earth real world examples and more so than any of the other speakers she didn’t talk as if she had plans to take over the world. Lisa Toenniges spoke about growing her business gradually and profitably. From her talk with us I could tell, she is in a good place making a good salary and giving a great service and is happy with that.
When she spoke about her business, everything was concrete; no spin. She broke down her 8 member team into specific job titles. She ran through her work schedule and gave specific percentages on where her time is spent. She gave one of the specific reasons for her success in the fact that 60-70% of her business is done outside of SE Michigan. With all of that being said I think the greatest thing Ms. Toenniges left me with was the merit in running a good company and that business isn’t all about forcing the competition out of the market, but instead about servicing the customer.
The CEO of 6 Degrees magazine Mike Melfi came in and describe to us what it’s like to run a young, hip business at a young age. 6 Degrees magazine is an urban lifestyle based magazine available in Detroit as well as other places such as Miami. Melfi started going from business to business himself and asking if he could leave copies there and grew to a multi-channel magazine that also host a ecommerce site directed at 6 Degrees’ target market.
The major lessons Melfi left us with are:
1. You’re either selling or being sold. So get to selling.
2. You can’t win a championship on your own. Surround yourself with good people and treat them good and it’ll produce a return.
3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. When asked why he hasn’t gone national, Melfi admitted he didn’t have the infrastructure to do so. It drew back to the when the owner of Small Plates said he could have grown but didn’t because he didn’t have the key people in place to do so.
4. Don’t reinvent the wheel, there is research and practices already out there. Use that, don’t do it on your own.
“People who are successful in high school basketball, are the same ones successful in college ball and the same ones successful in the NBA”, Dave Bing said. It’s those ones willing to work hard. He said it’s the same thing with business. From working at a bank on his NBA off season to immediately going to work after retirement, Dave Bing serves as his own example for how hard work means all the difference.
How does a man with impaired vision in one eye go on to be a hall of fame athlete? Hard work. How does a man who dribbles a basketball for a living become a leader in the manufacturing industry, and without having any background in it until his mid 30s? Hard work.
Hard work isn’t the only thing Bing brought to the table. Dave Bing has an enormous amount of basic wisdom as well. Many times people come to business wisdom and try to give some outside the box kind of philosophy, but not Bing. He shot straight through and through. With advice like, know your weaknesses and get someone else to cover for them, and just trust your gut when you hire people Dave Bing was a good business 101 reality check.
Know something. Do a good job at it. Create a reputation for yourself. It seems time and time again this seems to be the formula for many of the entrepreneurs we’ve learned from who have been in the game for years. They learned from working a job in an industry. They do a good job at it and create their own company where they make a reputation for themselves by doing a good job, getting things done and making customers happy.
This was the case for John Ferchill. He went to college and then eventually got a job with a Midwestern development company. Eventually opening his own company with his own money. In his own words he stated, “We are relentless for completing projects on time and on budget.” He’s created a strong reputation to back up his strong personality. He stated that people love him and some hate him, but they all respect the work he does and they know he’s the best.
With all that being said one of the greatest lessons I learned form Ferchill was not a direct one, but a lesson that we all picked up on. Be yourself. He wasn’t politically correct, but I believe people respect that. People respect a man who will shoot from the hip and not feel like he has to pretense himself in order to do so. I think of people in my own sphere who I don’t have a great deal of respect for. Those are people who feel as though they need to say the right things and do the right things, rather than being the right thing. All and all, I guess the lesson learned form John is to let who you are speak for itself. People can love you or hate you, but if ingrained in you is the propensity to do the right thing, it will show in all the work that you do.
Talk about a born business man. Bruce Schwartz is, “that guy.” His father was a pool hustler turned salesman. While Bruce became a real life hustler turned In-House Realty CEO. Finding opportunity after opportunity and using his social network and streets smarts to his advantage every step of the way.
Bruce is a true serial entrepreneur. His laundry list of businesses sounded like a couple pages out of mobster’s rolodex. From a gambling hotline to construction and even a little arcade game services he’s had a piece of nearly all the mafia related businesses short of hired hand (at least I hope). Bruce never stopped seeking out opportunities. His continued pursuit of business exploits even after complete destruction is what impressed me most about Bruce. His gambling hotline was put out of business by an uprising in credit card fraud and his construction business self imploded after too much demand after a hurricane.
The more and more I write about this guy the more and more I’d love to see a movie about him. It’s strange, Bruce didn’t seem overly charismatic or shockingly impressive, but he’s one of those guys if you were to sit down with I could guarantee you he has some stories to tell that could keep your attention for hours.