Knowing When It’s Time to Leave the Party

It’s important to have a reliable barometer that helps us gauge when it’s time to leave the ‘proverbial party.’ For me, the party I am exiting is located at the School of Management at Boston University. However, for you the ‘party’ might be a customer relationship that has gone awry, a business partnership that has seen better days or perhaps even the company you launched.

Do you know when it’s time to leave or do you often overstay your welcome?

Beth Goldstein

Sell High – Buy Low

Investors playing the stock market have searched high and low to know the exact right time to exit the market. For them, it means knowing when your portfolio has peaked and before it begins spiraling downward. Unless you’ve got some special insight, finding the perfect time to exit is hard.

Let’s face it, being able to walk away is an important skill set and something you need to do before the proverbial table is cluttered with empty beer cans, the pizza crusts are piled high, and your head is spinning. Sometimes your friends or colleagues are there to show you the door… other times you just have to listen to your gut, pick yourself up, wipe off the crumbs and exit…. remembering to always thank your host. Here is my thanks to my host for the past 13+ years – Boston University (BU).

BU is an amazing university – one that I have been proud to call my home (at least part-time) for over a decade. But eventually we must all recognize when it’s time to fly the coop. I started teaching at BU less than 18 months after I launched my consulting practice in 1999 and it gave me the grounding, support and credibility I needed to build a reputable marketing consulting firm focused on helping entrepreneurs and business owners grow their own businesses.

I learned an exorbitant amount from my colleagues and my students and had the opportunity to be introduced to publishers like McGraw-Hill (published my first book) and to travel to exciting places like China and Nigeria… opportunities that would not have happened if I had not made a connection that originated at BU (unlike Kevin Bacon – most of my connections were only 1 or 2 degrees… not 6 acquaintance links apart).

However, my gut has been shouting, ‘it’s time’ for quite a while. I believe I made a solid contribution to BU and my time there was well spent. But I’m ready to leave. Now, starting ‘Year 16’ of Marketing Edge Consulting Group, my passion for educating entrepreneurs and small business owners has grown exponentially. This has led me to create the Edge Institute – the training division of my firm. I am thrilled and blessed that I have found my passion so with a renewed energy and a focus on developing training programs for businesses; I am ready to leave the BU party.

This week I began the next chapter of my career. I am teaching entrepreneurship courses and even a class on ‘Creativity and Idea Generation’ at Babson College (ranked #1 in entrepreneurship for 20+ years) and focusing on the Edge Institute to ensure it has the bandwidth required to ensure its success.

But alas I will never fully leave BU. It’s been my home for too long as well as my alma mater (MBA ’91). My son, Ben will carry on the legacy as he becomes a member of the BU class of 2017 this Fall. So, there will always be a Terrier in the family (besides the two barking ones that rule our household). Thank you BU for being the amazing host that allowed me to get to this point in my career.

What’s On the Other Side?

As Alexander Graham Bell said:

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Here’s to not looking back with regret but with high hopes and renewed energy towards the new future that has opened. I look forward to seeing you on the other side.


Use Yah Blinkah!

A few weeks ago the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) revealed their latest digital sign, “Use Yah Blinkah” to remind those of us in the fabulous state of Massachusetts that communicating with other drivers about our next move is important. If you’ve ever driven through Massachusetts you’ve discovered that most of us consider the blinkah an optional gadget in our car. Seriously, it’s amazing we don’t have a major problem with road rage because, from my observation, most of us simply ignore this important safety rule.  This month we discuss the importance of speaking yah customer’s language!

Beth Goldstein

What Do Yah Customahs Hear?

DOT recognized that they weren’t getting  through to their customers but instead of pleading with drivers to be courteous, they decided to use humor to grab our attention. They successfully managed to gently remind us to observe the rules of the road by having fun with the fact that Bostonians are known for dropping their “r’s” when speaking.

I suspect that the DOT has tried more conventional methods of getting drivers’ attention. However, I missed the message and I wonder how many others did as well. Nonetheless, this creative tactic certainly got my attention and went viral pretty quickly. I found out about it through a Facebook post. At first I thought it was a hoax but was delighted (thrilled actually!) when I saw one of the signs on the Massachusetts Turnpike (aka Da Pike).

Imagine that – a government agency acting like a business to ensure their message was not just delivered but received! They became marketers – thinking like their  ‘customers’ to ensure that those who had gone deaf listening to this message in the past were now hopefully more engaged in the dialogue.  I think it was brilliant marketing and applaud the DOT for having the courage to think outside of the conventional box to appeal to its citizens using a voice they recognize and can smile at. Humor can be a very effective form of communication.

Why is it so important to think like your customers to ensure they hear you?
This reminds me of the personal branding story I’ve shared in my books and told numerous times during my growth seminars. Here’s the story, if you missed it… or simply want to hear it again.  I know this is my mother’s favorite!

When my son Ben was a little boy we decided to have the shutters replaced on the outside of our house. It was the middle of the winter and our contractor placed a large blue tarp over our house to protect us from the pending blizzard. When Ben asked why our house was covered in blue, we explained that there was a huge blizzard coming and we needed to be protected from it. Unfortunately this caused  a lot of fear for our 3-year old and Ben had nightmares for several days until  we figured out what the root cause of the problem was.

It turns out that 3-year olds don’t know what blizzards are but they do know what lizards are. Ben didn’t comprehend what we said (we failed to think like him) and he believed that we needed to be protected from the huge lizard that was about to attack our house. You see, perception is reality and Ben only heard what he was able to comprehend – lizard…. not blizzard.

It seems that the DOT understood that they weren’t getting their message delivered any better than Ben’s dad and I had. Message delivered but NOT received – as anticipated is a problem in business and well, in all aspects of life.

How Effectively Are You Communicating Your Brand?

Check with your customers and see if the message you’re delivering is the one they are receiving. How? Simple – either ask them to describe your value to them or  use social media to check. Social media can be a great way to determine how well  you’re explaining your company values, benefits and brand. If the buzz about your business, being shared through the voice of your customer, is different than the  one you believe you are delivering then it might be time to USE YAH BLINKAH and  starting communicating better with customers and prospects that clearly influence the success or failure of your organization. Remember, don’t let your brand be a lizard.

Hope is NOT a Strategy – It’s Fuel For Your Dreams

Hope is NOT a Strategy – It’s Fuel For Your Dreams

If you’re a fan of the show Lost you may recall the episode during season one when they discovered a hatch on the island they’re mysteriously stranded on. Before they figure out how to blow it open, there are many discussions about what could be in this covered opening.

John Locke brilliantly points out that whether it’s Twinkies or equipment enabling their escape, it’s clear that the one thing this this hatch holds is hopeHope for a future. Hope for a better life or the achievement of one’s dreams. I thought this was brilliant and in this month’s newsletter I will share a few stories of hope that have inspired and motivated me.

If you’re located in New England, remember to Register for the National Small Business Week Celebration at the NERD Center in Cambridge on May 15. It promises to be an incredible day of networking and learning for small business owners.

Hope Helps Us Take Critical Leaps of Faith

With this issue I launch the fifth year of writing this newsletter, designed to provide tips, guidance and hope to small business owners. One of my first articles was entitled, “Hope is Not a Strategy.” I wrote about the importance of not waiting or hoping for positive business achievements but creating critical action steps to ensure you turn your dream into reality.

Looking back I wonder if I was too dismissive about the role hope plays in success because without it, the best tactical plans will not likely work. Why? As I’ve learned over the years, hope on its own won’t ensure your dreams but it clearly is the fuel that powers your plan. It’s what motivates us to work late into the night, on weekends, even in the shower thinking about our next steps. When it’s lost (even temporarily) the energy to move to the next phase of growth or make a risky move isn’t there. We become lost and either find ourselves standing still or thinking only about the past… without any motivation to move forward.

Like all of you, my business and personal life have taken hits that temporarily damaged my hope. We all go through negative turns in our lives, but once we find that thing we call hope, we discover the power to envision our lives or businesses as they can be.

The First Hit is the Hardest
This past fall my son Ben was presented with a personal challenge that hampered his hope. He was quite happy during his first six weeks in college in the Midwest but his situation suddenly turned ugly (very ugly) and he was put in a position where he needed to withdraw from school and return home. He didn’t have a Plan B since this turn of events was quite unexpected. He decided to take classes at a local university until he could determine next steps. You could see that hope was no longer a part of his every day life.

As an 18-year old this was quite clearly the first major blow to his spirit and he didn’t have the benefit of past experience to know and truly believe that things would improve. The first blow to hope is always the hardest. It wasn’t until he began the application process in January that I saw the light come back on… his spirit lifted and his sense that ‘all would be alright with his world’ once again returned. As a mother, it was devastating to watching. However, I am confident that this important life lesson – while brutal and hard to experience – will be one that will empower him in the future… and allow his recovery time from the next hope-destroying experience to be much shorter.

Lessons from the Boston Marathon

The running of the 2014 Boston Marathon was Monday.  A few weeks ago I was honored to moderate a panel held at Boston University run by Boston’s former Mayor, Tom Menino (he now heads up  a program at the university entitled Initiatives on Cities). The forum,   “Leading Cities Through Crisis: Lessons learned from the Boston Marathon” was a fascinating and informative assessment of how the city of Boston came together during and following the bombing, a crisis unimaginable to many people. There were panels of survivors and first responders who spoke to the audience of city officials from around the country. It was quite clear that hope played a key role in their ability to move forward and provide the support needed to overcome the crisis. It was also inspiring to hear how much individuals acting collectively could do to help others in need.

PhiloSophies Heads to the Big Apple

My final thought on hope focuses on Joanna Alberti, owner of PhiloSophies. I wrote about her Kickstarter campaign in February and many of you have asked about her final results. With a great tactical and strategic plan, Joanna managed to more than double her goal of raising $3,000…. hitting over $6,200 in donations. She’s now furiously planning for the May conference where she’s sure to be a huge success. Hope fueled her through the last few months and gave her the strength to take some calculated risks to scale her business.

Share with me! What gives you hope for the future? What motivates  you or has motivated you through hard times? I love to hear your stories and look forward to being inspired.

Crowdfunding: Another Tool in Your Marketing Tookit

Crowdfunding: Another Tool in Your Marketing Toolkit

“I’m a marketing consultant, what do I really know about Crowdfunding?” was the dialogue going on in my head when I received a phone call from a respected agency in Massachusetts asking if I was available to develop a presentation on Crowdfunding for their semi-annual meeting of non-profit agencies.

Fortunately, she couldn’t hear this brief, internal conversation and over the years I have learned not to share my every thought. I was grateful that my inner-entrepreneur immediately took over the real conversation and said, “While I’m not an expert on this hot topic, I have been watching it from my ‘marketing chair’ and see it as another tool in a small business owner’s marketing toolkit to help promote and grow their business.”

Sold! She loved this angle so I was hired and began to think of the best way to put together a dynamic, one-hour presentation on Crowdfunding, making it valuable for folks contemplating a campaign to raise funding for their business venture and educational for individuals not ready or just curious to learn more.

Most of you know my perspective on luck, we create our own as we proactively do the ‘right’ business activities. So, as luck would have it, one of the women I’ve been mentoring over the last 10 years, Joanna Alberti, approached me as I was searching for the right story to share. She asked me if I thought it was a good idea to create a Kickstarter campaign to fund a booth at Surtex, one of the top licensing shows held annually in NYC.

small version of sophie on broadwayIf you’ve read either (maybe even both) of my books, you are familiar with Joanna’s story.  In 2005 she launched PhiloSophie’s®, a stationery and card business featuring the fabulous and fearless character, Sophie.  Joanna has already experienced a lot of success having been named the “Top 25 Under 25 Young Entrepreneurs” by Business Week and her cards can be found around the U.S. in stores like Target and Wegmans.

Now Joanna wants to take her business to the next level and was curious to learn if Crowdfunding was a good way to support her dreams. Damn – some times things fall perfectly into place and this was clearly one of those times. I definitely thought this was a great idea (not just because I needed a case study) but because Crowdfunding is a perfect match for her business.  To scale, Joanna needs more exposure, the kind that requires licensing her products to manufacturers. Combined with the fact that she is a part of the creative economy this was, without a doubt, a perfect fit.

So we were off and running at lighting speed. My presentation was in 3 weeks and we knew we needed to get the campaign completed before then, not just so I could feature her as a case study but to also ensure she had enough time to raise the funds required to pay for her booth at the Javits Center in NYC (not an inexpensive venue). So much to do… so little time to waste. If you’re considering launching a Crowdfunding campaign, below are the 9 steps that Joanna and I pursued. Trust me, the payoff has been significant. Within 72 hours, Joanna raised more than 50% of her $3,000 goal. Click here to check out Joanna’s campaign

9 Steps to Successful Crowdfunding

1)     Start with a SMART Goal. You’ve heard me talk about SMART goals before. Make sure your goal is Specific – Measurable – Actionable – Realistic and Time-Based. Of critical importance is ensuring your results are measurable in terms of dollars funded for your project, profit after fulfilling perks, exposure to new potential customers, and ROI on your time to create and fulfill the campaign.

2)     Think Location, Location, Location. Even online location matters so review the different Crowdfunding platforms. You have likely heard of the two major players (Kickstarter and Indiegogo), but there are do-it-yourself models and lots of other small players. They all have different audiences, criteria, and success rates. For example, Kickstarter campaigns have a 44% success rate, as opposed to Indiegogo whose success rate (according to sources like TechCrunch and the Verge) is only 9.3%. Data shows that 83% of Indiegogo companies have not raised at least 25% of their goal.

It’s important to understand the differences amongst the various platforms. Below I have provided details about Kickstarter and Indiegogo. However, there are many important details to consider when selecting your host location, so make sure you ask the right questions before you select a site.

  1. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model, meaning that if you don’t hit your goal you do NOT get to keep any of the money. However, if you don’t hit your goal you are also not obligated to fulfill the perks. If you do meet your goal you will be required to pay them 5% of what you are funded (plus an Amazon processing fee).
  2. Indiegogo will allow you to keep all of the donations you receive (even if only raise a buck), but if you do not hit your target donation goal you will pay them a 9% fee (to keep the funds). If you hit your target you only pay a 4% fee, lower than Kickstarter. However, if you don’t hit your target and keep the money donated, you must fulfill all of the perks promised.

3)     Perks Engage and Support Your Brand. Give yourself time to develop perks that excite and interest your audience. Remember, these are branding opportunities so make sure whatever you give away, it is related to your business to help build your brand power. That means don’t give away a toaster if you’re a video producer. For PhiloSophie’s® Joanna decided to create 3 Limited Edition versions of Sophie in New York City. These are beautiful renderings only available to Kickstarter donors – something you will NOT find on her website. Depending on how much is donated, the design is offered in different formats ranging from notecards and prints to recyclable totes and trays.

revised kickstarter4)     Perk Fulfillment Must Be Realistic. Make sure your perks are cost effective so that fulfilling them doesn’t equal (or exceed, yikes) the price of the donation or you’ll find yourself in the same or worse financial position as you were at the beginning of the campaign. Easily said, this needs to be strategically determined. For example, offering mugs can be twice as expensive to fulfill as recyclable bags when you consider packaging and shipping costs. Plus, how many people are going to see a mug on the donor’s desk (unless they’re wildly popular) compared to the number of people who will see your design on recyclable bags every time the donor takes them to the store.

5)     Understand Donor Categories. Most people will donate at the lower end ($50 and under), so make sure you offer and can easily fulfill those perks so you’re not tarnishing your brand by not sending the promised items out in a timely manner. Joanna and I created an excel file with all the perks, cost, and profit for each and how many we would need to meet her donor goal and her actual profit (amount funded minus the cost of goods sold, including her time).  Again, you don’t want to spend 50 hours on a project that ultimately only generates a couple hundred dollars (you could work at a fast food chain and make more money).

6)     Determine Approximate Range of Donors Required for Profit. Create a simple excel file that shows donation total, profit, and number of funders in each category. Manipulate the cells for the “number of funders” to see how much donation revenue and profit you’ll make depending on how many people donate in each category (i.e., 50 donors give $10 and 2 give $150). This creates a visual starting point so you understand approximately how many folks you need to make enough money to take your business to the next level. Continue plugging the actual numbers into the excel file as the campaign progresses so you know how profitable the campaign will be.

7)     Remember, this as a Marketing Campaign. A Crowdfunding campaign can and should mimic a typical marketing campaign. Let’s consider all the benefits that can be generated by a campaign.  To name just a few:

  1. Raise or generate money
  2. Uncover customer needs and interest in your product
  3. Validate a concept and/or identify key value proposition
  4. Test messaging
  5. Generate interest or create a buzz about your product or company
  6. Create brand awareness
  7. Create early adopters, raving fans, promoters, and a solid customer base

Notice how these benefits are precisely what you will achieve from a marketing campaign to promote your business. I know you wouldn’t dream of putting together a marketing campaign and not follow through with the all activities to ensure its success. Crowdfunding is no different. Focus on ensuring its success to achieve benefits that exceed the donation amounts.

8)     Launch an Integrated Campaign. Once you recognize the critical marketing benefits you can achieve, now is the time to create and launch your fully integrated marketing campaign. You want to ensure that your friends and family are not the sole sources of your funding. If that is the only audience you reach then you have lost an important opportunity to expand your reach and target new customers. To expand your customer touchpoints you need to focus on a variety of online and offline tools. For PhiloSophie’s® this included: email blasts, Facebook posts, Blogging, Tweeting, LinkedIn shares, newsletter outreach, and partnering with other brands to promote the opportunity. Don’t underestimate the time it will take to develop and run the campaign for the 30 days (or whatever time period you select) until you are completed. Many donations come in at the very end… you will want to ensure you have the ‘marketing copy’ ready to roll out the campaign before you launch (remember, you’re still running your business while managing this campaign).

9)     Measure, Analyze, and Course Correct as Needed. You must review the metrics that tell the story of your campaign’s success (or failure – but hopefully not). Even if you hate number crunching, this process is critical to ensure you are achieving your stated goals and can make changes as required if something isn’t working as anticipated. Here are some numbers you should focus on, but each campaign is different. Most of the Crowdfunding sites offer tools to help you do this.

  1. Number of visits each day and after marketing pushes
  2. Number of video/site views and percent that pledged
  3. Contributions after marketing pushes and by contribution amount
  4. Pledges from external referrers (outside the platform)
  5. Popularity of each reward category
  6. Visits from your website and other social media sites

So, are you excited about the opportunity or have I scared you off? Here’s a summary of the Lessons Learned from the PhiloSophie’s® Kickstarter Campaign:

  • Select the right venue (location, location)
  • Advanced planning drives traffic
  • Perks are a branding opportunity
  • Make sure you understand profit not just donations
  • Analyze, analyze, analyze
  • Remember – this must be an integrated approach

Best of luck growing your business and using all the marketing tools available to build your brand. If I can be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to email me at Click here to check out Joanna’s campaign!

Can Your Business Benefit From a Midlife Crisis?

Beth GoldsteinHappy Holiday Season. I’ve spent a lot of time this year pondering the direction of my life and my business. You see I turned 50 earlier this year (good opportunity for you to feign surprise) and, as anticipated, I had my proverbial midlife crisis.I’m still in the midst of wondering where all the years went and did I make the right decisions along the way. I’m confident that I made a lot of really great choices, but trust me, when I made bad ones – they were doozies. Let’s face it, we all have “dirty laundry” but to be successful it’s critical to decide what to clean up and what to discard.

As we approach the new year, this month we’ll explore how a midlife crisis might just be what the doctor ordered for your business to rise to the next level!


Sometime it Just Takes a Few Grey Hairs…

I have learned a lot from my choices over the years (both good and bad) and am diligently trying to use those lessons learned to guide my future decisions. A colleague recently asked me if I was worried about becoming obsolete as I get older and I reminded him that I work at two universities where the median age (of most educators) is still older than 50. But, after making that statement, I thought further and have to acknowledge that, regardless of the age of my colleagues, staying on top of my game must become an even more significant priority as I enter this new decade.Can you have an empowering midlife crisis that catapults your career or business to the next level? I’m counting on it!The questions I’ve been asking myself about choices I’ve made over the past 50 years (well, the first 10 probably don’t count) have proven to be quite powerful. They have demanded that I carefully rethink and reconsider every aspect of my business and personal aspirations. I admit it, I am terrified of becoming obsolete as I get greyer (I already spend too much time with my hairdresser) and there are many things that I need to carefully review as the clock ticks.The world is a different place than we knew it 20 or 30 years ago and the pace of change continues to hit us at an unprecedented rate. Therefore, we must each learn how to avoid obsolescence while ensuring we remain passionate about what we do every day.  Are you still passionate about the things you cared about 20 or 30 years ago? How about 5 years ago?

The same soul searching questions I’ve been asking myself this year about my personal decisions have to be asked about my business choices. Not just this year (because I’m of ‘that age’) but every year because time slips by rapidly and none of us can afford to not ask these questions routinely (I suggest at least once a year but not daily or you’ll make yourself nuts).

Let’s review some soul-searching questions (you may have already asked yourself these):

  1. Are the things I care about today the same ones that led to my current business or career choice?
  2. Do I love getting up every day (or most days) knowing that I’m going to be doing something important?
  3. Am I restless and in need of a change?
  4. What would life look like if I could wake up tomorrow in my perfect job or running the ‘ideal’ company or non-profit?
  5. Do my answers terrify yet also excite me?
  6. Finally, (and this is the million-dollar question), What am I going to do in 2014 to create the change I desire? 

Remember, only you can make the change you need to have a successful midcourse correction. It’s never too late!

Enjoy the holiday season and I hope that you begin 2014 with a renewed energy in your walk and in your talk.

From Worst to First: Lessons from the Red Sox Comeback

TBeth, Ben & Jacquihis month I’m thrilled to co-author this blog with my 18-year old son, Ben Weiner, whose knowledge and love of sports is at an All-Star level compared to my young rookie status.

Together we apply lessons learned from the amazing comeback story of our beloved Red Sox (Worst-To-First) to help you think about your business in a new light.

Whether you’re struggling to grow your firm or to turn your losses into World Series caliber wins, there are valuable lessons to be learned for everybody (even Yankees fans)!


Just over 13 months ago the Boston Red Sox found themselves in the cellar of the American League East Division with a 69-93 record, the worst the franchise had posted in nearly a half century. The team had over a year’s worth of clubhouse problems ranging from drinking beer before and during games to players flat out not getting along. Plus, there was so much bad karma in the locker room that it couldn’t help but affect their on-field performance.

If you’ve spent any time in the world of business, then you’ve most likely been in this position –struggling with daily drama that has nothing to do with the actual business you’re running or working in. Unfortunately all of this negative energy has a huge impact on what you deliver for clients and eventually, if unresolved, on your bottom line. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re consumed with these diversions, but in order to achieve your true goals, focus is a MUST!

So how did the Sox launch their turnaround and what lessons can you take away and apply to your business? The first big move to clean up the club was made in late August 2012, when the Red Sox agreed to send big name players Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford to the LA Dodgers in exchange for lessor known and prospect players. Beckett was in the middle of many of the clubhouse troubles that had followed and haunted the team over the course of the season and the 7-20 September collapse the previous season. This deal sent over $250 million in future salaries to LA and cleared up plenty of space for offseason acquisitions.

But they didn’t stop with the rank and file, they took a hard look at the leadership too.  The Sox dropped manager Bobby Valentine just one year after bringing him in to replace Terry Francona. Valentine’s relationship with players and management in the clubhouse was poor at best and identifying a leader who was a better fit became a top priority in the offseason.

Business owners: when was the last time you cleaned house? Have your star performers begun to disappoint you but you haven’t addressed nor corrected the situation? Are all your players in their proverbial “right seats on your bus” or do some seem out of place now that your company has grown? If you are experiencing any of these common growing pains, then you know it’s impacting your performance.

 These challenges go beyond personnel so when cleaning house you also need to review your systems, processes and even your products and/or services. Are these working in your favor or have they outgrown their original value? As business owners we wear so many hats that sometimes we don’t spend the precious time required to sit down and evaluate what is no longer a logical part of our business operation. This time of year is perfect for re-evaluating all aspects of your business and making much needed and oftentimes overdue changes to people, processes and products. Do you need to clear out space for new acquisitions?

For the Red Sox, the 2012 offseason was a huge success from the start, trading with the Toronto Blue Jays for manager John Farrell, who was the pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007, when the team captured their 7th World Series title, until 2010. Farrell brought back a familiar and well-liked face to the clubhouse. Farrell’s prior success with the pitching staff was a result of the respect they had for him and he quickly recreated a will-to-perform that the pitching staff had lost. The Red Sox also signed free agents. Not only did these players perform on the field, but they also brought a will-to-win to the Red Sox clubhouse that was truly lacking.

The phrase ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ clearly epitomized the performance of the team in the past season and helps emphasize how critical it is for every organization to ensure their passion to win (however winning is defined) isn’t lost at any level. This lesson can clearly be applied to businesses that have lost their way. Comebacks don’t just happen in baseball. They happen all the time in business but ONLY when the team and the leaders strive to make it happen. I have had the honor of watching many business owners go from being in the red to driving profitable growth. 

World Series Caliber wins are never easy – they take courage, leadership and a team willing to put the time into the dream to ensure the turnaround happens and sticks!

Finally, Spring training in Fort Myers, FL brought a revamped and refreshed team committed to making a splash in the AL East. Heartbreakingly, just 15 days into the season, on April 15th, 2013, the city of Boston was struck by tragedy when 2 pressure cooker bombs exploded on Boylston Street near the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox had just finished a 3-2 victory at Fenway Park that afternoon when they received the horrific news. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks tweeted out his condolences for the tragic event and added a hashtag: #BostonStrong, which grew to become not only a motto for the city, but a way of life.

The Red Sox returned home that Friday, April 19th for 10-game home stand but the first game was postponed due to ongoing searches for the suspects of the bombing attacks. The next day, the Red Sox felt it was safe enough to play and they wore home jerseys that did not read the usual “Red Sox” across the chest, but instead “Boston,” and David Ortiz grabbed the microphone prior to the start of the game to talk to the Fenway Faithful and yelled out, “This is our f*****g city!” and from that point on, this was a different team.

They had one vision and a new camaraderie. They had something important to play for; the victims, the fans, and the city they loved. What are YOU playing for and who’s inspiring and supporting you and your team? Without support and motivation – those big wins are really hard to achieve.

This determination played out through the season and proved the adage: Where there is a will, there is a way. The Red Sox went on to win the American League East Division title, their 7th all time; the American League Pennant, their 13th all time; and their 8th World Series title, all in dramatic and heroic fashion. The team dreamed of winning, they had a passion to win, and they proved it through every pitch, every hit, every walkoff win (all 11, impressive!), and every single awesome beard.

When the dream is bigger than the obstacle, nothing can stop you.

A lesson learned over and over by sports players, fans and business owners. Ben and I have never been so proud to call ourselves Bostonians. From worst to first, anything is possible.#BostonStrong 

Are YOU a Game Changer?


Regular readers of my blog know that this summer was pretty exciting for me as I had the opportunity to teach at two universities (Brandeis and Boston University) and visit Lagos, Nigeria where I spoke with over a thousand students about innovation and entrepreneurship.

However, the lesson that stands out the most from this summer is that one-time speaking engagements and short-term (3 to 5 day) conferences don’t really ensure nor support meaningful change. It’s great to speak with motivated students and business owners about change and innovation but it can also be quite disappointing if the impact you are aiming for is fleeting.

How many times have you left a seminar charged up and inspired to execute change within your organization only to return to your ‘daily life’ and ‘business as usual’ never implementing the much desired change? I can personally attest that this is something that plagues me and sometimes leaves me pondering why I bother attending or speaking at conferences if it isn’t going to make a difference.

This month we explore how to shake things up and become the game changer you need to be!


 We all know that change is hard, really hard, but if you (and I) don’t take the steps required to execute on our dreams, then nobody is going to do it for us.  Change is in your hands but it won’t happen simply by attending a few workshops or networking occasionally to make the ‘right’ connections. These are activities that are great starting points but you must take the time to create very specific and measurable goals in order to achieve the vision that you are aiming for.

As a trainer, my desire to have a long term impact on individuals I have the privilege to work with led to the creation of a business card handout used to capture an important SMART goal. It asks ONE simple question: “What SMART goal do you want to achieve in the next 30, 60 or 90 day period (you pick the time frame)?” Plus, there’s space for only four actions to be executed during that period to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed with too many activities that simply won’t get done.

Since I started handing these out at seminars I have been thrilled with the responses I have received. Months later participants in a workshop or talk I gave have come up to me to show me their SMART Goal card and tell me that they carry it around to ensure they actually do what they had committed to. This takes the prize when it comes to my own job satisfaction. Would you like your own card? Feel free to click here to download the SMART Goal Card.

 I’ve seen the benefits of follow up in my workshops and in the classes I teach at BU and Brandeis. One example is a course I taught over the summer called the BU Urban Business Accelerator. This is a 10-week course designed to help students gain expertise through consulting with small business owners in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The students achieve solid experience as they begin to truly grasp what it means to be a small business owner and see first hand the obstacles encountered in growing and maintaining a business. The business owners get support from dedicated, hard working students who research their specific industry (e.g., beauty salons, electronic stores) and help them better understand how they are doing relative to others in the industry and learn how to manage their business by the numbers.

This course, masterminded by a BU student in his senior year, has a unique twist that is at the heart of its success and differentiates its impact and value from other programs. There’s a 24-month follow-up.  The program doesn’t end when the course does, unlike most traditional classes and business growth programs. This follow-up provides a chance to review what’s working, what’s not and what midcourse corrections need to take place to ensure the companies are using the new tools provided to them by the students. While we are still in the early stages of gathering this post-initiative data, I am convinced, based on early data collected, that this is a critical element that will help make this program a true game changer. In fact, I believe it makes enough of a difference that I am reviewing other business growth classes that I offer to determine how I can ensure that the lessons taught are lessons executed

Long-term success has a better chance of occurring when individuals measure their success not by the strength of their idea but by the actions they take to directly achieve their goals.

Like a great diet or exercise regime, success depends on what happens when we leave the protected environment of the classroom and return to working IN the business. Without making time to work ON your business and make appointments with that very important VIP – you, you may have had a nice experience but the bad habits return quickly.

Ready to set your SMART goals now? Simply visit the SMART Goals page here on my website for a worksheet to help you define your goals and executable action steps and to download my SMART Goal card.

Nigeria – Hope On the Edge of Chaos, Crime and Corruption

Market2 Selling
Ever wonder where all the Volkswagen Microbuses from a bygone era disappeared to? It turns out they’re alive and bustling around, albeit at a very slow pace, in Lagos, Nigeria where I just returned from a speaking engagement on innovation and entrepreneurship.This month I share with you my impression of Nigeria, a place filled with paradoxes… the people are beautiful, hopeful and impassioned about making change happen while the streets are littered with garbage, rotting with sinkholes so enormous they could consume small children.There is a level of chaos that I have never experienced previously, not even during my multiple trips to China. Everybody is on the move yet they’re getting nowhere fast because there’s no order to the flow of traffic. This is a place void of traffic lights and seemingly traffic laws. The lack of infrastructure was haunting, yet the call for change from the people with whom I spent four days inspired me and I hope my stories will inspire you as well.Beth

Hope on the Edge of Chaos
Nigeria overview

Lagos, the largest city in Africa, is a blend of chaos and pollution mixed with passionate, energized Nigerians aimed at saving their country from the crime, poverty and go-slows (traffic jams) that plague innovation and growth.

This is a city filled with energy that can be deafening and yet defining as the tin and cardboard shacks that are home to millions of their citizens sit juxtaposed to the slowly growing middle class homes. I found it to be both scary and scintillating, but my feelings about the people that reside there was not conflicted in any way – I fell in love with their warmth, passion and drive for change.

A true urban adventure, the economic powerhouse of Nigeria was exactly what I needed after months of seven-day workweeks focused on teaching and consulting. Who thinks of “Nigeria” as a getaway for the weary? I certainly didn’t but it turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered.

I knew I was in for an adventure when I found it impossible to purchase Naira (Nigerian currency) in the U.S. Everybody from my two banks to the currency exchange experts at Travelex informed me that they don’t carry Nigerian money. Most looked at me perplexed that I was going to Nigeria — you would have thought I had told them I was going to the moon. I assumed I’d have an easier time exchanging my money once in Nigeria but discovered that they don’t accept Traveler’s Cheques, my credit cards were considered foreign and therefore unacceptable, and my ATM card was rejected in the hotel’s machines. I eventually found a location that accepted my card at a heavily guarded ATM Gallery.

What did all of this tell me?
Nigeria, beyond its reputation as the hotbed of scammers trying to extort money from innocent email recipients, does not yet have the infrastructure to support tourism – an industry that could help infuse capital and business into their country. But it begs the question: What will it take to overcome their reputation so outsiders will think of it as a country to visit and experience?


So how did I end up traveling to Nigeria? This has been the most popular question posed to me over the past few weeks. A former graduate student of mine invited me to participate in Nigeria’s Annual Business Competition. She came to Boston University with the goal of learning more about running a national Business Plan Competition for her country, Nigeria. She was working for a US-based organization whose focus is to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills necessary to become socially responsible business leaders.  With skyrocketing unemployment this organization helps students develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, skills that are not just nice to possess but are clearly necessary for success.

I felt proud to watch her realize her dreams. Students from the 36 states in Nigeria participated in this competition. Each team represented a year of planning along with the execution of their proposed business models. As part the competition, teams were required to prove that they had achieved measurable economic, social and entrepreneurial impact.

I had the privilege of not only speaking at this 3-day event but also judging in the semi-finals round. It was quite moving to be in the room of over 1,000 students and experience their energy and enthusiasm as they simultaneously burst into applause and dance when the winning team was announced. This inspiring team had to work through bombings in the northern part of Nigeria that they called home and risked incarceration because they broke curfews mandated by the dangerous conditions in which they lived.

A chaotic city filled with noise, pollution, bumper-to-bumper traffic at all hours of the day and a lack of public utilities resulting in ongoing power outages, Lagos is clearly struggling with the enormous population growth that it’s experiencing. Unemployment is as high as 35% for 20 to 35 year olds. It makes one ponder how they will ever get past this poverty-riddled position to realize the small wins that most Americans take for granted every day.


Nonetheless, the spirit of entrepreneurship clearly lives in the souls of their youth. You can experience this firsthand in the streets and roadways while traveling in your car or catching a ride on a VW Minibus (their national transportation system). While on the ride, you can purchase practically anything you need before arriving at your destination including plantains, soda, candy and fruit as well as mouse traps, car mats, jewelry, towels, videos and stuffed animals. If you dare to get out of your car you can even pick up a sofa, toilet, bathtub or a couple of dogs (I was tempted but realized it was simply not a good idea).
What are the takeaways for me? Where there’s hope, there is an accompanying entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and change that can transform a person, a business and even a country. This spirit, enabled by amazing women like my student, who have dedicated their lives to change, will be the driving force that empowers developing nations like Nigeria to find their place as a viable economic power. I hope to be a part of that transformation because observing that level of hope and energy is a privilege that every entrepreneur should experience at least once in his or her life. It will change your perspective forever.

Everything Critical About Business I Learned From My Dog

biscotti_ben_spaghettiThis month’s newsletter is dedicated to my recently departed dog Biscotti (pictured above with my son Ben about 10 years earlier showing their beautiful trusting relationship). Biscotti reinforced in me (and my children) the values that we hold true in business and life. After 15 years of loyal companionship and love, Biscotti is no longer with us, except in spirit.
The story I share this month is about a disastrous lobster bake I hosted for Ben’s high school graduation (he’s grown up since the picture was taken) and exemplifies the best and worst of people in business. I’m confident Biscotti is looking down upon us grimacing at the horrible traits that not even a bad dog would exemplify and secretly wishing he had been there – simply to have feasted on the lobster that splattered to the floor after 3 hours of cooking.Beth

Lessons From Our Canine Friends

Beth GoldsteinWhat are the most important traits that define a business and exemplify its brand? They include: establishing relationships built on trust, being loyal, making good connections, following through and showing unconditional compassion. Those characteristics are ones exemplified by our canine companions and the reason we call dogs ‘man’s/woman’s best friend.’ Biscotti held these traits, and as a member of our family, he was loved and respected by all. In the best business relationships, these same characteristics are self-evident. In the worst, they are completely mutilated, and my Lobster Bake story unfortunately shows the complete obliteration demonstrated by the owner while his young crew showed the best of these qualities.

It all began when I saw a Groupon for a Lobster Bake and thought – wow, what a great idea for my son’s graduation. I looked up the company, Saldoni’s in North Chelmsford, MA, (yes, in this rare instance, I am sharing the company’s name) and didn’t find anything negative about them. Since the Groupon was a bit vague, I called the owner directly to make sure I understood what was included, and he pitched me an offer to go directly through him. Knowing that Groupon would have provided him just 25% of what I paid, it sounded acceptable, and I hired his team months in advance. He told me his crew would arrive at 5 p.m. on the day of the event to setup and we’d be eating around 6 p.m.

A few days prior to the event, he called me to confirm, and we reviewed times again. Things, however, went downhill from there. On the day of the party, no one showed up at 5 p.m. The owner didn’t answer or return my calls to him at 5:15 p.m., 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. My messages began in a gentle tone and then escalated as time passed. I grew annoyed as my guests grew hungrier. At 6:20 p.m., he finally called back. That’s when the ugliness began. He told me he was sorry, he was catering another affair, and didn’t know where his crew was but that he would solve the problem ASAP. They showed up a few minutes later looking innocent and honestly surprised when I asked them why they were so late. They told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30. Nonetheless, they could not have been sweeter. It was obvious that they felt terrible and quickly pulled things out of their car to begin the lobster bake.

Immediately, I felt better seeing this as a communication gaffe that wasn’t their fault but clearly the owner’s responsibility. I was watching them work hard to set up the equipment in my back yard when the owner called back and told me, “My crew had a flat tire!” Really? I exclaimed because they told me they were instructed to arrive at 6:30 p.m. I asked, “Which lie is the correct one?” and he got mad at me and said, “This is my business, and they had a flat tire.” I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth but checked with them any way. They were as surprised by the lie as I was and they were looking me in the eye telling me there had been no car problems.

The situation then went from bad to ugly. After learning that the owner had thrown his team ‘under the bus to protect himself,’ I then discovered there was a problem with the equipment. To make a long story short, they couldn’t get the water to boil because the equipment wasn’t working. Two hours later, we gave up with their efforts and attempted to cook the lobster on my stove (in my lobster pot) and finally got them semi-cooked by 9 p.m. The rest of the food couldn’t fit in my home-style pot so it had to be thrown away or frozen (anybody interested in frozen corn? I have a lot).

Talk about a WOW (NOT) experience! This was beyond disappointing. To top it off, the owner told me his policy was to never provide refunds (even when he’s at fault?) and kept insisting that I accept another meal on ‘the house’… personally cooked by him. Seriously, the last thing I wanted was this dishonest business owner, who treated his staff with disrespect, to cook a meal for me and my friends. It took me two days and one nasty YELP review (social media can be quite powerful) to convince him to give me a refund. Let’s face it, people make mistakes and equipment fails. I am very much pro small business and would have forgiven him (and not gone to the web to voice my disgust) if he had been honest.  But when he tried to place the blame on his honest employees… that was the last intolerable straw for me.

What does this tell us about his business and his brand? Nothing positive, for sure. He’s not trustworthy, doesn’t deliver on promises made to customers, is unfaithful to his employees and doesn’t follow up. If only he had taken a lesson from my dog BIscotti or perhaps yours, and shown loyalty and compassion… he wouldn’t have a really awful review on the world of social media (feel free to check it out).

In closing, as you manage your business, always keep in mind the important lessons of honestly, trust and loyalty that our four-legged friends teach us every day.

Now, please excuse me as I go give our other dog, Twizzler, a belly rub! Next month I will share stories of my adventure in Nigeria as I head out next week to speak at conference on innovation and entrepreneurship in that fascinating country.