Duquesne University’s Entrepreneurial Growth Conference

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 7.40.51 PMIf you’re an entrepreneurial led small/medium sized business you should be heading to Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center’s Entrepreneurial Growth Conference tomorrow, Thursday, June 5.

If you’re going, please connect with me.  As a sponsor, BrandMill will have a demo table and I’ll (Steve Wayhart) be moderating a lunch table discussion about, “How to Profitably Build Sales” and leading a discussion about “Shortcuts to Social Media” at 3:30 p.m.


We Need More White Knights

Photo by: Dr. Roy Winkelman

We’re jacked after reading today’s Wall Street Journal’s front page story which referenced our client/friend John Graf of Pittsburgh’s Priory Hospitality Group and his goal of buying the famous Westinghouse Castle!

It’s great to know that there are still pioneering maverick people in America today who still MAKE THINGS HAPPEN and/or have the courage to TAKE A SHOT!

When’s the last time you took one!


Entrepreneur Growth Conference at Duquesne

Please join us at one of Pittsburgh’s largest entrepreneurship events and fuel your engine for the road to business growth.

We’ve accepted an invitation to speak at the 15th Annual Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference on Friday, May 10 at Duquesne University.  This conference is led by  Small Business Development Center at Duquesne.

Our topic is, ‘How to be a Marketing Rock Star!’ Client John Graf, co-owner of the Priory Hospitality Group will join me Stephen Wayhart.  Together, we’ll discuss the seven key brand building principles used by Rock legends such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and U2.

If you’re interested in attending let us know and we’ll send you a $20 off coupon – supplies limited. Click here for more information or to register now!

Hope to see you on Friday, May 10 and always remember to ROCK ON!


Our Greatest Generation’s Branding Lessons

USS Arizona – Pearl Harbor

Today, we’re remembering ‘those who gave some and some who gave all’ for our freedom on this 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Thank you greatest generation.

When you think about the trials our Greatest Generation (GG) overcame to ‘win the big one’ and come home to rebuild America into a global super power today’s challenges seem to pale in comparison.

I’m honored to say that several uncles of mine served in America’s military during World War II. Two uncles in particular taught me many life lessons – verbally, but mostly non-verbally. My Uncle Lambert was in a tank division in the Battle of the Bulge and my Uncle Tunny was part of the Army’s rescue detail in Germany’s Concentration Camps.   Their actions communicated so much more than words.

These people lived through – and overcame – terrifying times including the Great Depression, World War II the Cold War and were bombarded by the rapid succession of technological breakthroughs.

My uncles and aunts as well (Nell and Vi) taught my brothers and me that a lot of good can come from having endured tough times.

They taught us that forging ahead through rough times forces you to focus on securing your essential needs and learning to find ways to effectively work together and help each other.

Many of my clients are worried about how the aftermath of a tough presidential election and potential ‘financial cliff’ will impact their families and businesses. Fortunately for me, I have the lessons of my Uncle Lambert and Uncle Tunny (and Aunts) to guide me when I need to lead my clients through troubled waters and help them build strong, tough brands.

The main lesson my Greatest Generation relatives taught me was that, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people (and brands) do,” but here are 10 more that can help you build a strong, tough brand.

10 Brand Building Lessons from Our Greatest Generation (GG)

  1. Be self reliant – The GG always took personal responsibility for their lives and were self reliant.  They never (or rarely) complained about self sacrifices (physical, material) they made for their families, friends or country. And, they didn’t demand, much less expect or ask for handouts.
  2. Have class – Whatever my relations lacked in money, but made up for it in class. My uncles and aunts were always kind, respectful and appreciative. They had self respect and manners. My Uncle Lambert would always tell us that us that you don’t need a lot of money to look good and to keep your hair cut, be clean and shave (‘don’t look like  a bum’) – hah!
  3. Be frugal and resourceful – The GG always did more with less, never ran up huge debt and lived within their means.  They were handy too – my Uncle Tunny could fix anything. He was a lifelong butcher in a grocery store, but could have made a good (if not better) income as an electrician, carpenter or plumber..
  4. Be humble – The GG accomplished a ton over their lifespan and didn’t brag about their accomplishments. They merely did what they were expected to do. My uncles helped to rid the world of Nazi Germany, but rarely talked about their wartime experiences (only if encouraged) let along patted themselves on the back.
  5. Honor your word and commitments – The true essence of any brand is how it delivers on its promises. My uncles and aunts kept their promises and loved their families with fondness and lifelong loyalty. They took oaths and vows seriously.
  6. Never give up or give in – My Uncle Lambert (with the support of my Aunt Vi and Uncle Paul) never gave up when wartime injuries crippled him (he eventually lost both legs and his voicebox). After he returned home he became a successful entrepreneur. He never quit or complained about his physical limitations. And, he always maintained his gentlemanly manner.
  7. Work hard for the greater good – The GG were raised to take care of themselves (self reliant), but not in a selfish way. They worked hard to not only make their families secure, but their family’s family too. And, they knew that their communities would be strong if they were strong.  They were always willing to help a neighbor or those less fortunate even if they didn’t have much themselves.
  8. Embrace challenges and build solutions –  My uncles and aunts were like the rest of their generation whereby they helped to build solutions to any challenges they faced. Think about it, this generation created social security, unemployment compensation, pushed for regulations in the banking industry, supported labor unions and more.  Look at the Fraternal Benefit (Insurance) Societies – all started by immigrants or first generation Americans who could not get insurance.  They pooled their resources and figured out the problem themselves. They got involved – they showed up.
  9. Keep things simple and do the right thing – The GG didn’t make their lives complicated. Life was very much black and white – right and wrong – which makes life a bit more easy.
  10. Be happy with what you have. The GG valued simple pleasures of family, friends, a good job and security. They enjoyed what they had and their state in life. They didn’t focus on or complain about what they didn’t have, but valued what they did have – how refreshing.

If you’re going through some tough financial or brand building times right now, embrace the values of the Greatest Generation.

A lot of it is simple, basic common sense.

Don’t make things more complicated than they are and keep things simple.

Don’t sit around and complain or wait for someone to help you (divine intervention). Help yourself.

Get up and do things – the right things.

Focus on the most important task/s at hand.

Keep on keeping on and keep fighting the good fight.


A Great Demo of How to Wow

In our client strategy sessions, we always discuss “How to deliver a ‘WOW'” because most brands don’t take the time to think how they can create brand buzz – or, believe they can!

Every brand has a ‘WOW” within them – cost effective ones to be nurtured with thought and care – that will effectively separate themselves from their competitors and carve out a unique branded value proposition, awareness etc.

For example, here’s a ‘WOW’ case study right in our own backyard by a small family owned window cleaning company based in Pittsburgh.

Their idea is a cool and commendable story. The idea was a simple lift of one that a firm executed  in another country.

This simple ‘WOW’ paid off big time too. The brand made a more favorable impression with clients, prospects, employees and for its potential little customers that will last a lifetime. In addition, this ‘WOW’ landed the company and its owners on the front page of Pittsburgh’s major daily papers, 6PM and 11PM TV news and more. Do you have a ‘WOW’ cooking NOW?  If not, why not? You can do it and get people buzzing about your brand!

Colussy Chevrolet’s Place in Americana

Chevrolet will be kicking off a huge celebration in early November for its 100th Anniversary.

And, what many people do not know is Pittsburgh’s unique role in Chevrolet’s history courtesy of the Colussy family.

Check out this story by Teresa Lindeman which we earned for our newest client Colussy Chevrolet on the front page of today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Business Section – Colussy Chevrolet, A Place in Americana.

Chevy Runs Deep In Pittsburgh, PA

Congratulations to brothers Tim and Jon Colussy who now lead the third generation ownership of Colussy Chevrolet in Bridgeville, PA for their well deserved recognition. Chevrolet’s oldest dealership in America is now in its 93rd year of operation since 1918.

It’s true when they say that Chevy runs deep. Chevy runs deep in Pittsburgh, PA and a little deeper in Bridgeville, PA.

P.S.: Here is the first Road We’re On’ video from NYC’s Mother ad agency in preparation for Chevrolet’s 100th anniversary.  It’s the first in a series and features Bridgeville, PA and Colussy Chevrolet.  Enjoy – it’s excellent.


Thanks for Making a Dent in Our Universe

Our world lost a great man yesterday – Steve Jobs.

Jobs impacted my life in numerous ways through not only his great innovations and style, but also in his words.

Here’s my top 10 list of Steve Job quotes that have resonated with me over the years.

God bless you Steve and many thanks.  You’ll be missed.

Steve Jobs Top 10 Best Quotes

  1. “We’re here to put a dent in the universe, otherwise why else even be here?”
  2. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
  3. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
  4. “That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity.  Simple can be harder than complex. You need to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
  5. “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
  6. Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
  7. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
  8. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
  9. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone elses life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
  10. We don’t get a chance to do that many things and every one should be really excellent because this is our life.”

…And, one more thing!

10+.    “You know a design is good when you want to lick it.” … And, “Design is not what it looks like.  Design is how it works.”


How High is Up

True nobility is not about being better than anyone else, it’s about being better than you used to be.”

The halfway point of the 2011, was at noon on July 1st, exactly 182 1/2 days left before we ring in 2012.

So how are you doing on your New Year resolutions?

Personally, did you lose the weight you were trying to lose?

Professionally, are you hitting your sales goals?

Have you taken a hard look at your results to date and put a plan in place to finish what you started or are your goals out of whack, meaningless and unimportant?

It’s never too late to late, to improve, to succeed.

You have plenty of time, it’s just that you’re not using it properly and majoring in minor things.

Think (and do) about setting clearer goals for the rest of your year and think about (and do) easier ways to achieve them.

For example, if you’re like me and don’t always have time to go to a gym to workout, do you just give up?

Or, do you find an easier way to accomplish your fitness goals by working out at home using your own body weight, doing pushups, situps, skipping rope etc.?

If you’re not hitting your sales goals, do you know why? Do you know your sales ratios (e.g., how many calls/communiques lead to appointments to contracts)? Is it a simple matter of just making more contacts?

My goals are quite simple and they’re based on improving my own situation and being better than I used to be, not better than someone else.

“IT” should always be about you!

In short, my overarching simple goal is to improve my states of peace, love and happiness and I look at making plans for each many roles as a small business owner, marketing professional, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, community member and most important ME (spirit, soul, being) and craft simple strategies, objectives and tactics to follow to improve my states of peace, love and happiness.

And, how to I get there?

I work on ‘getting there’ via several ways such as:

  1. Being in the moment and focusing on being fully engaged
  2. Delegating to great people
  3. Working in process improvement (checklists – group similar activities together)
  4. Waking up early (not watching much TV etc.)
  5. Saying ‘no’ to things that don’t help me achieve my goals (like lots of meetings when a phone call would do)

And lots more, because this is a journey!

And, hey I don’t always get there, but my batting average has increased over time with practice.

Focus on your being better than YOU used to be and your happiness because when you’re happy you’ll find that it’s contagious.

Don’t waste your time.

Learn to let go of – and don’t sweat – the minor things and focus on what’s really important to you, to your business etc., and see your happiness soar!

How high is up? As high as YOU want to make it! It’s always been about YOU and no one else.


Priory is SBA family-owned small business of the year

L-R - Priory co-owners Suzanne and John Graf and GM Tim McGlothlin. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

Congratulations to a great client and family – the Graf family, owners of the Priory Hospitality Group in Pittsburgh, PA – for being recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as the Family Owned Business of the Year!

See story here.

All of us at BrandMill are proud to serve as a marketing partner of the Priory Hospitality Group.


You Need a Marketing Invention Factory

A little over a year ago, I toured the Fort Myers, FL winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford two of my favorite business heroes.

Edison and Ford’s fascinating friendship is a story of mutual admiration and a story of curiosity, experimentation, persistence, inventions, failures, achievements and brand legacies.

Both had little formal education – Edison left school at age 8 and Ford had about 3 years – however, both achieved great success through radical life improving innovations that we continue to enjoy to this day.

In my business engagements, regardless of brand size, I’m discouraged by the lack of courage and innovation by most brand leaders.  And, it’s sad.

It’s sad, because innovation can be achieved when you desire, demand and plan for it.

Both Edison and Ford believed in dreaming big and visualizing the impossible and making it possible.  The had invention factories and labs (at work and at their vacation homes) and they believed in open collaboration and getting things done – acting on things – and fast failing.

So, my question is, “Where’s your invention factory?”

“What’s your process and how do you plan for it?

Are you a trailblazer, an industry leader or a simple follower?

For some time, I’ve felt that Americans have lost their innovation edge and others do agree, but brands such as Apple and Starbucks offer hope and guideposts (just wish I saw more American manufacturing innovators).

Much like Edison and Ford who believed in collaborative innovation work, Starbucks’ modern spin is its highly successful “My Starbucks Idea” which is an online crowdsourcing initiative that enables its raving fans to offer new ideas for products, brand experiences and involvement improvements.

My Starbucks Idea is celebrating its 3rd anniversary this month – and it’s Starbucks 40th anniversary too (read about their four new products)!

MSI is an awesome crowdsourced innovation tool.  To date, it has generated (as of a few minutes ago) 107,450 ideas and launched 130 new ideas.  In addition, people get to view ideas in action and see which ones are under review have been reviewed are in the works, and have been launched and demonstrates that Starbucks is a listening and caring brand.

In fact, customer input on My Starbucks Idea led to the development of the Starbucks Card Mobile App for select BlackBerry smartphones last September and the “Give a Gift” feature – the 100th MSI.

I love the MSI concept and I’ll bet there is an crowdsourcing idea here worth exploring for you.

Think about ways to create your own invention or innovation factory be it online (Starbucks uses Salesforce.Com) or offline or a combination of both.

For example, you could simply start with having bi-weekly meetings with your staff to brainstorm innovative cost saving or revenue producing ideas.

However, if you don’t plan for ‘it,’ I guarantee you ‘it’ won’t happen for you!

P.S.: For more about Edison, check out Time Magazine’s feature, The Making of America: Thomas Edison. I found it ironic that there was a Starbucks banner ad when I first clicked on the link.

P.P.S: A great source of innovative companies to research and model is provided by Fast Company Magazine every year. Check out Fast Company’s 2011 Most Innovative Companies.