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Don’t eat your seed corn

Country folks know about seed corn.
That’s the part of the crop you save to plant the following year. Without it, you won’t have anything to plant.
Wall Street Journal reader Bill Taylor reminded me of that after retired General Electric Chairman Jack Welch died.
Bill wrote that Welch cut costs by firing the lowest 10% of employees every year.
“That’s doom in a high-tech company,” he wrote. “Designing the next generation of jet engines or power-generation equipment requires a great deal of trust and cooperation between engineers. His 10% cutoff for survival destroyed cooperation.
“What if you helped someone and his elevation pushed you below the survival threshold? Mr. Welch cut costs by cutting back on R&D which was doom in a business which needed competitive advantage to earn high margins to support its workforce. He cut costs by eating the seed corn.”
If you’re tempted to follow Welch’s example, do it carefully. Getting rid of losers means getting rid of anything, or anybody, that doesn’t justify the cost.
Have you faced tough decisions about people, services or products? I’d like to hear about it. Please call me at 803-359-7633.
We share such strategies in our e-book, “Uncover Your Inner Sales Genius.”
For a complimentary copy, fill out the top of the form on this website.
Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

Reward your winners, ditch your losers

Which unprofitable products, services and procedures do you and your people put up with?
Who are your least productive people and what do they do to morale?
Why do you put up with losers?
Jack Welch didn’t do it. Why do you?
Welch died last week at age 84.
In his years as CEO at General Electric, he was ruthless about selling less profitable assets and buying winning companies.
That strategy made money for his investors, many of them GE employees.
His critics called him Neutron Jack, after the bomb designed to kill the enemy but leave his buildings unharmed.
Welch believed you improve people, productivity and profits by rewarding your winners and firing your losers.
Each year, Welch required his executives to fire the least productive 10% of their employees and give bonuses to the top 10% of those who were the top producers.
Hiring is fun. You are looking for people who can become top producers. But you aren’t always right. Performance, not job interviews, proves who your winners are.
Reward your winners. Get rid of your losers. They just drag everybody down.
We share such strategies in “Uncover Your Inner Sales Genius.” A complimentary electronic copy is available to you in the banner at the top of the page.
Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

Your advertising can change your results

40 years ago, ace copywriter Denny Hatch heard Dorothy Kerr of US News & World Report say, “If you want to be successful in direct mail, you have to know who’s mailing what and track which mailings come in over and over again. These are the controls – the hugely profitable money-makers that are making marketers rich. Save them, study them and steal smart.”
Denny started collecting junk mail – filing it by category, analyzing it, labeling it and tracking mailers that came in over and over again. Those were the ones that had worked with great success.
You can do the same thing with any advertising you plan to do for your business.
Save mailers. Tear ads out of magazines and newspapers. Record radio and TV commercials that are often repeated. Create digital files for ads you find online that could stimulate ideas for your own advertising.
Those who buy advertising repeat those that draw the most response.
Whether you create your own ads, get them from your vendors or use an ad agency, you are directly responsible for their cost – and their effectiveness. It’s your money.
The full story is at .
We share such ideas in “Uncover Your Inner Sales Genius.” For a $4.99 electronic copy, contact us at
Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

Your Golden Hour of Discovery

Good writing requires good reading. 
Good writers read good writers. 
Think about what they did. 
How did they get their effects? 
What did they do to move you? 
Read them aloud. 
Listen to the pace and rhythm of their words.

Our colleague Roger Beirne used to retype poetry.
Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats and other poets he admired. 
“I want to feel how their words work,” he said.
Roger developed a lyrical style in his feature writing. 

Read good journalists.
The internet is a boon to all of us. 
We can access almost any newspaper or magazine in the world.
Concentrate on those that encourage good writing. 

Read magazines in print or on the internet.
Look for strong journalism, detailed reporting and vivid writing.

Read the novels of great writers. 
In translation, great writers in other languages teach style.    

Read the Bible. Most of the great writers of literature did.
Ernest Hemingway took book titles from Bible passages.
I prefer the original King James version.
The king’s translators had archaic but poetic styles. 
Choose the version you like from many translations. 
All have much to teach us about language.
Joan Beck of the Chicago Tribune says she reads the Bible every day.
“Those cadences get imprinted in your brain,” she said. 
“You tend to write in those kinds of patterns and rhythms.”

Read at least an hour a day. 
Not just duty reading. 
Devour your own and others’ newspapers and magazines.
Rise early and read for an hour while the rest of your household sleeps. 
Make them Golden Hours of Discovery. 
Note in the backs of your books the passages you may revisit.

Here is my suggested reading list:
Journalists: Joan Didion, James Agee, Hannah Arendt, Ernie Pyle, Russell Baker, Meyer Berger, Bob Greene, Jimmy Breslin, David Halberstam, Art Buchwald and John McPhee.

Masters of American literature and poetry: Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Annie Dillard, Robert Frost. Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. 

Modern fiction: Robert B. Parker’s Spencer novels for crisp dialogue, Stuart Woods for his fast-paced plots, and James Lee Burke for his imagery.

Specific Selections:
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. 
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Growing Up by Russell Baker.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. 
Only in America by Harry Golden.
On the Road by Charles Kuralt (his TV scripts). 
Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

Did you enjoy learning from this?
There’s much more in Compelling Writing.
E-copies are available for $10.
Just email

How to cut your customer acquisition cost

Why don’t your customers refer?
Here are 7 reasons from our friend Ruth King:

  1. You have no active, non-pressure program so they don’t think about it. No one has ever talked with them about it.
  2. You haven’t shown them how to refer. They don’t know who to send referral to and how (email, telephone, text, etc.)
  3. They drive prospects away by making them feel pressured into calling you.
  4. They feel awkward. They feel like they are selling and they “don’t like to be sold.”
  5. They forget. There are no reminders about your referral program.
  6. They don’t think it is important.
  7. They referred once and weren’t recognized, thanked or rewarded.
    If you want to cut your customer acquisition costs, create a referral program:
  8. Decide if you will give a gift card for the referral with a handwritten thank you.
  9. Let your customers know about it. Put referral details in your newsletters, on your invoices, on the back of your business card.
  10. Call 30 days after the sale and make sure everything is ok. Then ask, “Who have you talked with about your new X?”
  11. Track and improve your referrals.
  12. Post referrals on your social media.
    We share such ideas in “Maverick Entrepreneurs’ Million Dollar Strategies.”
    For a $20 personally autographed copy, contact us at 803-359-7633.
    Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

Your book can change your life

Could writing and publishing your book take your success in life to a higher level?
It has in mine. 15 years ago, I was struggling to write a book to help sales people.
Most self-help books like this averaged 250 pages. I had written about 100.
Then a successful author friend suggested 100 was enough. Most of his books were 80 to 90 pages. He used them to market his services as a business consultant.
A fellow business consultant offered to help me finish and publish the manuscript.
She had me set up a step-by-step plan to do all of this. As a result, my family even created a book publishing company.
That was 15 successful books ago. If I can do this while working as an editor on our family’s newspapers, you can, too.
It doesn’t matter who you are, writing a book is a proven path to success.
You already have the knowledge. All you need is a step by step guide that will help you organize your ideas, create a writing plan, publish, market and use it to attract coaching and consulting clients. Your book will unlock the door to your dreams.
I will be working exclusively with a half dozen aspiring authors this spring. They will get the benefit of my experience in writing, publishing and marketing to help them finish their books. If you share such dreams, contact me at 803-359-7633.
Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

You are what you read

My wife and I used to pore over out-of-town newspapers.

We went over them like scholars with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We would compare how other:

1. Reporters handled the same story.

2. Editors played those stories. 

We learned a lot from the way they:

1. Edited the stories.

2. Wrote headlines to capture their readers’ attention.
Those were pre-internet days. It is much simpler for any of us to do it now. Just go online and see what the competition is up to. You’ll learn a great deal.

Here is how three reporters handled one story.

It was on the latest female sexual dysfunction version of Viagra.
• CNN, the cable news network, took a traditional approach:
A drug aimed at helping women who’ve lost their sex drive cleared a key hurdle Thursday, winning backing from a Food and Drug Administration panel. (25 words)
• The Los Angeles Times started more conversationally:
This doesn’t sound sexy but trust me it is. (9 words)
• The Wall Street Journal posed a question:
Will there finally be a Viagra for women? (8 words)
Consider these three approaches.

How might you have handled the same news?

What can you learn from the three reporters’ versions?
One of my competitors was a former short-order cook. He told me he taught himself by rewriting newspaper stories.

He was a highly-motivated competitor.

He didn’t want to spend his life in front of a hot grill. His example inspired me. I tried what he had done.

It made me a better reporter and writer.

Next: The Golden Hour of Discovery.
Did you enjoy learning from this?

There’s much more in Compelling Writing.

E-copies are available for $10. Just email

Your advantage is always in jeopardy

You don’t have to be a football fan to appreciate 3 lessons from the Super Bowl.
You may recall the year the Atlanta Falcons ran all over the New England Patriots but let the Patriots come back and win.
That happened again this year. The San Francisco 49ers had a 2-score lead and let Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City score 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter to win.
Here are 3 business lessons from these and other Super Bowl games:

  1. Never relax. You may have a big sales volume, a fat bank account and strong profit margins. But bet a competitor is plotting to take your clients and do you in.
  2. Work hard for your clients and remind them you are their go-to guy. With Kansas City down 10 points, they worked even harder. You must never assume clients are so loyal no one else can lure them away. Look at how Walmart took other retailers’ customers and how Amazon has continued to do it to Walmart and others.
  3. Be willing to adapt. Kansas City changed its game plan. When the market, technology or your competition changes the rules of the game, your game plan just went out the window. You must adapt.
    These 3 lessons can help you survive.
    We share such strategies in our 3-CD “Make Yourself a STAR (Someone They Always Remember)” self-study course. For details, email
    Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

Don’t ruin your reputation online

Business owners know the importance of a strong online presence, says our ace Tech Talk columnist Katie Ritchie. Even if you don’t sell online, a website acts as a virtual business card and says you’re legitimate.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) makes come up 1st on “Lexington SC newspaper” searches.
Think of SEO as the grade Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines give websites. The better your site’s grade, the higher your site appears in search results.
Back-link scammers and questionable marketing agencies cheat. One of the top 3 metrics search engines use to grade sites is how many back-links they have.
The scam usually comes in an email. It sounds legitimate. They offer to pay you to post a relevant article. All you do is accept their money and post a link to the article.
What’s the harm? Links from well-ranked sites like yours endorse the scammer. The higher your rank, the more credence Google will give to the endorsement. They will boost the scammer’s credibility for a time.
When the search engine robots catch on they will demote the scammer’s site and penalize you for endorsing them.
Moral of the story: If you don’t know them, ignore them.
A bonus: For details about our 3-CD “Make Yourself a STAR (Someone They Always Remember)” self-study course, you can email .
Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.

Give customers memorable experiences

Here’s a competitive strategy: Create memorable experiences your customers can share with friends and have everyone talking about you and your products.
The Wall Street Journal has been staging high profile business forums for corporate executives and, like Turner Classic Movies, has Wine Club sales and events.
Hearst magazines staged road rallies and driver simulations to engage readers of its Road & Track and Car & Driver magazines.
Their Delish magazine is marketing a new Bite Club, a series of pop-up events in different cities tailored to their region. They will use these events to test which events and sites draw the biggest turnouts.
Marketing experiences rely on a combination of event programs, prices and customer mail lists. Hearst plans an exclusive spa day that will cost participants $1,300 each, designed for those who can afford it and appreciate sharing experiences with other wealthy people and their friends.
Ask your team these questions:

  1. What experience can we give our customers they would love and talk about?
  2. How can we pre-test its appeal?
  3. How can we make a profit on it?
    We share such field-tested strategies in our 3-CD “Make Yourself a STAR (Someone They Always Remember)” self-study course.
    For details, you can email .
    Copyright 2020, The Bellune Co., Inc.