Pheasant Fiasco

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Passion for something can sometimes blind you and can teach you very valuable lessons when you have bad things happen.  They call them learning experiences.

Hold a mirror up to a pheasant and it’ll likely crap all over it.

I had never invested more money in anything in my life, but it was a no-brainer to me.  And that’s literally what it was:  all passion, no brains – the pheasants and me.

Early in my career (but not so early that I shouldn’t have known better), I thought pheasant farming was the most fabulous idea ever. After all, I love everything about pheasants. I love to watch them; to see them run & fly free. I love to hunt them and most of all, I love to eat  them! When I took people with me, they loved it too. And when I served guests those beautiful birds soaked in my special marinade of buttermilk and hot sauce, they devoured them with delight.

My passion fueled my desire and my business plan.  I reached out to a bunch of friends and associates and sold them on the idea.  Many of us invested all we had.  We moved quickly to capitalize on the market and never questioned, researched or were aware of the lack of competition.  We became consumed with the idea.  We saw money everywhere.  We were pioneers. Our plan; to set up giant outdoor pens on the prairies where the pheasants could fly and run free as if in the wild. It would be a thing of beauty. We’d then process the pheasants or sell them live to hunting operations. It was perfect. We found a farm and a recently bankrupt (should have been our first hint) slaughtering facility. Soon hundreds of pheasants were living and flying free within our giant netted pens on the South Dakota prairie.  Our passion grew as we watched them. Soon in our minds we were going to sell fresh and smoked pheasants to chefs, restaurants and stores worldwide. Visions of gift baskets with smoked pheasants state and nationwide danced in our heads.

And then, it happened. One prairie thunderstorm and hundreds of pheasants grouped together, looked toward the sky, and drowned. We ended up losing everything.

What happens when you hit rock bottom like that? When you’re done crying there’s nothing left to do but realistically look at the wreckage and honestly confront what you’ve done. I let dreams of money and passion for the product carry me away. Passion is not a substitute for planning.

It’s fine to want to corner the market on something – own it top to bottom – but do your research. Find out if there IS a market. Pay attention. Find out what the customer is saying (because you know they are always right!) Every business, every person must ask themselves the hard questions, and first, start with Why.

I call it your 118. The 118 comes from the 118 seconds you actually have to pitch: 8 seconds to hook me and up to 110 seconds to drive it home – less than two minutes with only seconds to spare. The 118 is the 21st century version of what some people still call the elevator pitch, an out-of-date name for the worthy idea that you need to sell what your company offers (and you) in the span of an elevator ride. Constructing your 118 pitch will help you answer the “why.”

Take a good hard look at your business practices and thoughtfully-yet-aggressively evaluate, deconstruct, and then reconstruct your business idea.

I’m all for passion but let it push you straight ahead into a plan. Take that enthusiasm for your dream, evaluate, put legs on it, and allow it to walk you into your future business; one that’s breathing strong every day.


So Many Women!

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What are you doing to help other people?  Now, how are you doing it?  I think that Oprah put it best in her speech at the 2010 Women’s Conference, when she said, “…none of us do the work we do to receive recognition, but it feels really good.”  She was one of five Minerva Award winners, which recognizes women and the work they are doing for others.  (Click here for videos of speeches, and other information

In order to be successful in the work you are doing for others, you have to be successful in the work that you are doing for yourself.  Having a network of support can aid you in that process.  Not often do we hear the words, “men’s conference”, but the words “women’s conference” bear more familiarity.  People enjoy doing this, they like to talk in groups and tell each other what they are doing, and then join in with others that share the same interests.

When I was CMO at Kodak, we had quite a few networking and support groups, just like any other large corporation.  I just happened to be the corporate sponsor of the Women’s Forum, and carried the name “Women’s Champion” around the Kodak offices.  Because about 75-percent of the people reporting to me were women, I was around them quite often.  I was able to help each woman look at herself and grow as a leader.

The growth was accomplished through openness.  Open questioning, open thoughts; these were conversations and ideas that didn’t happen throughout the everyday work processes.  Leaders were brought in to meet with the Women’s Forum for breakfast or lunch.  A couple of these leaders were Linda Sawyer, CEO of Deutsch Advertising, and Jackie Hernandez, COO of Telemundo.  As established leaders, these women would answer questions, and lead the group toward their internal and external growth.

Use the resources that you already have to accomplish your goals.  These goals can include simple day-to-day tasks, or even a Minerva Award at the next Women’s Conference.  You already have a network, so use that natural network to expand your business development and make a high impact on your personal leadership.


Hello world!

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A much sought-after speaker on topics ranging from worldwide business growth, communications, marketing social networking and mobile marketing, Chief Marketing Officer of the iconic Eastman Kodak, Jeffrey Hayzlett has become a “Celebrity CMO” according to Forbes Magazine. Having appeared on shows including CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox Business News, and NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump, organizations around the world are interested in the insights of this social media and marketing expert. Hayzlett speaks frequently about business growth strategies, marketing and communication, and the advantages of social networking in a Web 2.0 world.

Hayzlett is the author of The Mirror Test: How to Breathe New Life Into Your Business, which teaches audiences — through entertaining and timely anecdotes — how to thoughtfully yet aggressively evaluate, deconstruct, and then reconstruct one’s business into one that’s alive and breathing strong every day. His big, booming approach is direct and to the point (adapt or die, win before you begin) but always delivered with a smile. Chock full of inspirational business stories and insights from his own career, Hayzlett and The Mirror Test are a force to be reckoned with.

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