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If you’re in business – a sales professional, manager, or entrepreneur – you read how-to books.  And the first thing you check out is the subject’s or the author’s credentials.  Makes sense.  After all, you don’t want biz advice from a person best known because “he once ran a lemonade stand; it failed.”  No, you want to hear from someone who knows the game.


Well, how about a business how-to book about how Jesus would do it?  That’s what you’ll get in Dennis E. Hensley’s Jesus in the 9 to 5.  Hensley, the director of professional writing at Taylor University, blends the practical side of business with a playful narrative about how Jesus sets out to start a furniture manufacturing company, beginning by recruiting a burned out failure of a man named Pete Fishers.  In one chapter, Jesus has a personnel problem:  An employee named Mary, accused of stealing from the company, is brought into his office.  I’m not going to tell you how he deals with the issue, but it may sound vaguely familiar if you know your Bible.


I will say, however, that Jesus in the 9 to 5 is a good book, well worth the read.  Within the 12 sections are advice on how Jesus handled personnel problems; how Jesus recruited and trained employees; Jesus on quality control; and what Jesus taught about stress management.


Best of all, all the how-to advice is Bible-based.  I’ve known Hensley for more than 40 years, from back when I was an unreformed heathen, when we set out as young pups to become successful writers.  In that time, he’s written more than 50 books.  (Me, well, I once had a lemonade stand.)  He’s also a playful though very serious, committed Christian, who knows his stuff.  (He is also a terrific public speaker, by the way, who does fantastic presentations on a number of subjects.) 


The bottom line:   Hensley knows business; Hensley knows writing; Hensley knows Jesus.  So, if you’re a sales pro, a high-powered exec, or business owner looking for the Christian approach to business, you want to get a copy of Jesus in the 9 to 5, read it, dog-ear it, read it again, and keep it close at hand on your bookshelf.  – jri




As some of you know, I have been working on a novel about the sex trade.  The working title is Daughters of an Abandoned Civilization.  It is more than half done and coming along nicely.  Along the way, I have also been carving out free-standing short stories and submitting them for publication. 


Though a professional writer for around 40 year, I have never had any fiction published.  No takers … until now.


So, I am pleased – more like delighted and thrilled – to announce that, finally, one of my stories, “The Prostitute,” has been accepted and appears in the current online edition of Wilderness House Literary Review.  It is actually the introduction to the novel.  Though a bit gritty, it speaks of hope and the indomitable human spirit.    


I invite you to read the piece by clicking on the above link and scrolling down to the fiction section.  Mine is the lead short story.  Thanks for your support, and I hope you enjoy the piece, which I am counting on being the first of many.    



John Ingrisano

4279 Hunter Road

Gainesville, GA 30506

July 7, 2014


by John R. Ingrisano

Think of networking as mostly free, word-of-mouth, marketing.  Here are some ideas to make networking work for you:

  • Be in touch.  Thanks to email, it’s never been easier to stay connected with clients and prospects.  Send out very, very short mini-newsletters (200 words at the most) once a month or so to remind them you’re still around.
  • Be involved.  Join organizations — Lions, Optimists, etc. —  in your local community.  The personal and professional relationships are priceless.
  • Polish your elevator talk.  Be prepared to tell people who you are and what you do in 30 seconds, the time it takes to complete an elevator ride.  Plus, put a summary on the back of your business card.
  • Promote others…no strings attached.  Don’t contact other business people in the community only when you want something.  Be generous with your time in talking up and recommending other quality people.
  • Send out calls for help. When you need advice – whether seeking a recommendation for a good book or advice with a business problem –send out an email to a very select group (the members vary depending on the topic) and ask them for help. The results may surprise you.  (The most effective words to get people to help you:  “I have a problem and I wonder if you would help.”)
  • Be selective.  Don’t waste your time on people with no talent, no work ethic or no understanding of the concept of a two-way relationship.  Also, only endorse people you are confident can deliver. Recommending an unreliable associate will reflect poorly on you.
  • Cultivate one-on-one relationships with quality people.  Example:  Schedule 15-minute phone calls each month or quarter with key business associates you do not see regularly. Just visit, letting the conversation range from business to your families to common interests.
  • Invite three or four business associates or other key men and women in you community to become members of your board of directors.  These men and women may be outside your industry, but are key members of the community (either local or virtual).  Meet quarterly over breakfast or via teleconference.  Pick their brains and ask for advice on specific and general business situations. You pay them back by serving on their boards.

Networking works. It’s inexpensive and builds business by building relationships, which makes it a perfect marketing and client-building tool.  Make it work for you.

The bottom line: Work hard, make money, have fun, and network your way into building a large, quality client base. — JRI


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

We remember exceptionalism … and the people who do the exceptional.

We remember the bad stuff:  Recently, while talking to a cell phone company representative, I was told I needed a ton and a half of special add-ons that would more than double the cost I was told I would pay.  I spent more time deflecting aggressive sales tactics than I did actually learning about what services were best for me and my business.  It was an unpleasant experience, at best.  I will avoid going through it again with that company, and I certainly will not recommend it to friends and associates.

Fortunately, we remember the good stuff, too:  When I was a young pup, a life insurance agent came all the way across town to talk about my coverage needs.  He knew I was financially barely getting by.  What he did not know was that two other agents previously had attempted to sell me loaded-up policies that I would never have been able to keep in force.

This third agent actually used his fact-finding information, listened to my concerns, and recommended coverage that was very affordable for me at that time.  That first sale did not earn him a huge commission, but it turned out to be the first of many sales over the years.

My point:  We do not forget exceptionalism.  So, when it comes to your own business-building activities, here are several suggestions:

Ask questions about what the customer/client really wants, needs, and can afford.  This is not a mechanical action.  Your goal is to find a good fit between the customer and the product.  (Do this, and you will be amazed at how repeat business grows.)

  • Stop thinking of yourself as a person who sells a product or service.  You are a problem solver (What should I get Dad for his birthday?).  Your role is not to sell a product, but to help people and businesses meet needs (Will this vehicle keep my family safe?) and achieve their goals (Will this equipment cut my production time?)
  • Recommend products and services that reflect clients’ needs, nothing more, nothing less.  The true litmus test about what you recommend is whether you would want your own best friend, sibling, or parent to buy it.
  • Do not calculate your profit or commission before the customer is out the door.  This should play no role in your recommendations.  However, if you simply do the right thing – practicing exceptionalism at every step – your profit over time will more than compensate you today and in the years to come.  (You’ll end up having more repeat business, and fewer returns.)

The bottom line:  Work hard, have fun, be scrupulously honest and exceptional in all you do, and you will make money and build a business about which you can be truly proud.    – JRI  

John R. Ingrisano
The Freestyle Entrepreneur



Do you need a quality keynote or motivational business presentation for your 2013 annual meeting?  Or a speaker for a sales or customer service session or after-dinner talk? 

An established business journalist, public speaker and sales trainer, I am giving away a free one-hour program to the first two responders.  If you represent a business or business organizations (such as a Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, Rotary, etc.), you are eligible to accept this offer.

This offer is valued at more than $3,000.  And it is free. 

TWO CONDITIONS:  (1) Your organization will cover all travel and lodging expenses; and (2) provide a professional video tape of the presentation.     



  • Are You a Buddy Or A Boss? An Employee-Relations Primer (for managers, small business owners, business organizations)
  • Husbands, Wives & Business:  How to Survive Working Together (for small businesses and business organizations)
  • That’s Great!  So What!  Who Cares? Discover Your Company’s Competitive Advantage (for businesses of all sizes and business organizations)
  • Big-time Marketing on a Small-time Budget (for small to mid-size companies and business organizations)
  • Building Brand Recognition That Really Works (for businesses of all sizes and business organizations)
  • Real Customer Service:  Going Beyond Have-a-Nice-Day (for businesses of all sizes and business organizations)
  • Finding Money: Overcoming the “No Money” Objection (for sales teams)
  • Husbands, Wives & Children:  How to Survive in a Family Business (for family-owned businesses and business organizations)
  • Marketing Basics for Non-profits:  Increasing Donations Without Compromising Your Message (for charitable organizations)
  • Selling:  The Greatest Job in the World (for sales teams and sales organizations)
  • Ten Sure-fire, Guaranteed Rules for Success in Business and in Life (for managers, small businesses and business organizations)
  • Ten Ways to Beat Business Burnout (for small business owners and organizations)
  • Ten Ways to Keep from Getting Burned When Hiring An Employee (for managers, small business owners and organizations)
  • The Busy Business Owner/Manager’s Guide to a Pain-free Vacation (for managers, small business owners and business organizations)
  • The Dilemma of the Small Business Owner:  Creating an Effective Exit Strategy (for small business owners and business organizations)

CALL TODAY for availability.  Book now for 2013 conventions and training camps.

THIS IS A FREE OFFER, available to the first two companies or organizations to accept.

For more details, click on motivational speaker.  

Or contact John directly by calling 770-314-2649; or email him at    


by John Ingrisano

“Will somebody please do something?”  I’ve heard that phrase now and then over the years from frustrated parents, unhappy customers, even business managers.

There’s only one problem with this complaint/demand:  It has no clarity, purpose or direction.  Do something?  Do what?  Please be a little more specific.  Seriously, I use the example in my seminars of being a customer who receives a lousy meal and rude service in a restaurant.  If the customer writes a letter of complaint that does nothing more than blow off steam and demand some vague form of  “satisfaction” or “compensation,” that person is very unlikely to get either.

Instead, imagine if the customer insists on (1) an apology, in person, from the rude waitress and (2) a $50 gift card in compensation.  Additionally, the customer insists on hearing from the company within ten days.  If so, there is at least a reasonable chance of getting what he/she wants.

It’s the same in business:  Be specific.  We must ask for what we want.   At the end of a one-on-one presentation, rather than asking,  “So, what do you think?” be specific:  “I think you will agree that this proposal will help you achieve your objectives.  If so, I recommend that we put it in place today.  Let’s complete the paperwork and submit it with a check for $XXX.”  Then go right into the application, starting with easy questions:  “Robert, what is your middle name?”

It is similar in retail sales.  If a customer is looking at two possible choices, suggest specifically which one you recommend, saying something like, “This blue item is one of our most popular blouses.  I can ring that up for you whenever you are ready.”

Ask for the order.  Request a specific commitment, not just agreement that the idea is a good one.  This simple idea can double your business.  That’s good for you, and it’s good for your clients, who receive the valuable products and services they need.

The bottom line:  Work hard, make money, have fun … and ask for what you want.    — JRI


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

Hernando Cortez knew the value of total commitment.  In 1519 – just 27 years after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World – Cortez landed on the coast of Mexico, thousands of miles from home.  He arrived with 11 ships and about 600 men.  Their goal was to conquer the vast Aztec empire.

They did.  Cortez and his men changed the course of history, marching across Mexico and starting what was to become a vast and rich Spanish empire in North and South America, one that dominated world affairs for nearly 400 years.  (Keep in mind that, to this day, Spanish is the dominant language of Mexico, Central and South America, except for Brazil, which speaks Portuguese.)

Failure was not an option:  Cortez and his men accomplished their goal because they were determined.  Mostly, they simply had no choice.  Upon landing on the Yucatan Peninsula, Cortez issued a three-word order that ensured their expedition would either succeed or fail completely, with no middle-ground option.  He totally removed the option of failure with the words: “Burn the ships!”

How about you?  Are you serious about success or just toe-dipping, semi-committed until you see how things work out?  Or do you just go along each day, curious to see how it turns out.  If that describes you, you are destined for one of two outcomes:  so-so mediocrity … or abysmal failure.  (Notice the word “success” is not there.)

So, if you start a business, go all in … completely.  Do your research; knowledge increases the odds of success.  Make sure your mind and heart are committed to something that you believe in, that you want badly … real badly.

Then dedicate yourself, putting in not just the standard 40 hours a week (save that for cubicle-dwelling wage slaves), but 60, 70, even 80 hours, if necessary.  Give yourself no choice.  Don’t tell yourself, “I can always go back to that other job,” or “It’s okay, my spouse makes a good living, so it’s okay if I fail.”  Commit.  And do not allow yourself the option for failure.

The bottom line:  Work hard, make money, have fun … and burn your ships all the way to the waterline.   — JRI

John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur



by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur


I know a fellow who once threw a handful of customers out of his restaurant because they were really wolfing down the chicken on all-you-can-eat night.  (After the fourth platter, he announced to the men, all sport fishermen, “Okay, guys, that’s all you can eat,” as he ordered them out.) You can bet that they not only never came back, but (A) they told all their buddies, including me, about how they had been treated and (B) the eatery down the street was more than willing to have their business.

I know another fellow, a self-employed film/video editor, who cursed, slammed equipment around the editing bay, created an unpleasant atmosphere of tension on the set, insulted customers, and just in case that wasn’t enough, rarely bathed.  I worked with him only when absolutely necessary, and I was not surprised to learn that he has long  since gone out of business.  Instead, I took my projects to a competitor, a man who was just as talented, but also gracious, charming, and cheerful to be around, a man who always made me feel welcome and made it clear that he appreciated my business.  (It has been more than 27 years since I left the area and have seen Lee, but he is still in business, paying the bills and, yes, even prospering.)

My point:  It doesn’t matter if you have a terrific product or service.  As an SBO (small business owner), your greatest asset is relationships.  Make sure that each and every customer knows (not “thinks,” but KNOWS) that he or she is incredibly valuable to — and valued by — you.  (When I invoice my clients, I often tell them:  “Thank you for the opportunity to work together.  I appreciate you.”)

Even when a customer becomes rude or demanding or wants to skin you alive and then fillet you, there is absolutely no reason (none, zero, never) to be rude in response.  Oh, you may have to say, “I’m sorry, but I simply cannot let this product go for $10 less than I paid for it.”  In these situations, be gracious but firm.

The amazing thing:  I’ve had clients who worked very hard to pick my pocket.  Keep in mind that this must have been a standard practice for these folks.  (If I say I can do it for $4,300, they will come back and demand that the price be $3,900.)  They no longer phase me, if only because I’ve learned that bad business is worse than no business.  However, here’s the kicker:  After they’ve made the rounds, it is not unheard of for them to come back to me and say, “Okay, let’s do business.  What was that price again?”

The bottom line:  Work hard, make money, have fun … and always be gracious … always.  — JRI

John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.

John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur    

 (920) 559-3722


Want more biz tips and support?  Visit


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

“Make every product better than it’s ever been done before.  Make the parts you cannot see as well as the parts you can see.  Use only the best materials, even for the most everyday items.  Give the same attention to the smallest detail as you do to the largest.  Design every item you make to last forever.”

 — Shaker furniture-making philosophy


Are you giving quality … always?  Is your philosophy, “Provide the very best, without exception”?  Or have you settled into one that implies, “Good enough it good enough”? or “I’m as good as my competitor down the street”?

In short, do your clients/customers get the very best you have to offer?  Are you giving them the absolute best customer service?  Are you giving them the absolute best value for the money they spend with your business?  Are your recommendations in terms of products or services spot-on perfect for each person?

Remember, there is no such thing as a routine sale, contract or project.  Each one is special, unique.  Work to make each your absolute best … every day.  See each contact, project, assignment or sale as an opportunity for you to help a client or customer solve his/her unique, one-of-a-kind, what-if problem or meet a need better than anyone else.  Each customer is counting on you to provide the very best.

Do this, and you will accomplish these powerful goals:

  1. You will meet your customer’s/client’s needs, even if the result is no sale … at least today.
  2. You will lay the groundwork for additional business next month or next year … even if the result was no sale today.
  3. You will convert more one-time buyers into loyal, life-long customers or clients.
  4. You will get more and better referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied customers/clients.
  5. Your business will continue to grow and you will prosper … yes, even in today’s lousy economy.

So, give it your best, always.  Be demanding of yourself, and then apply to yourself Winston Churchill’s famous saying:  “I am easily satisfied with the very best.”  Accept nothing short of that.

The bottom line:  Work hard, make money, have fun … and never give your clients/customers or yourself anything but your absolute very best.  — JRI

John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

My daughter recently opened her own hair salon.  She will be a total success.  I know this for sure – no, not because she is my daughter, but because she has the three skills that can virtually guarantee the success of any business owner.

Success Skill # 1:  Relationship skills.  Angie is charming and pleasant.  When customers sit in her chair, she does not talk their ears off about herself.  Instead, she asks questions and talks about them.  Plus, she listens when they talk.  Bonus:  She remembers the names of spouses and children, and brings them up during the customer’s chair time.

This is not manipulative.  Angie loves people; she cares about them.  Plus, she is in the glamour business, and that’s a people business.  People do not come to her just for a haircut or perm; they come to her for a pleasant break from their hectic days.  (It has been said that she provides the best scalp massage in the Madison, Wisconsin area … and she throws it in at no charge.)

As a result, her small, one-chair business is growing steadily, with a solid amount of repeat business.  She is a natural at relationship skills.

(BTW, if you are a bit of a social cripple, here is a simple way to build your own relationship skills in your business:  Do NOT talk about you and your business.  DO ask questions about your customers’ lives … and then listen to the answers.  Not only will it help your customers appreciate you more, but it will also give you keen insight into their needs and concerns, which you just may be able to address with your products and services.)

Success Skill # 2:  Applied knowledge.  A pretty face and charming personality will only get you so far.  You must know your stuff.  My daughter, who has been “doing” hair for nearly a decade, is good at what she does.  She does not so much cut hair as she shapes it creatively.  She does good work.

Remember, anyone may give you a shot once.  However, that person will only return if you do a good job.  You want repeat business.  Fortunately, applied knowledge is one of those things most people can acquire.  All it takes is time, dedication, and practice.  My daughter goes to seminars, keeps up on the latest hair styles, and is never satisfied that good enough is good enough.

Never stop learning.  Quit building your knowledge and improving your skills and you will first plateau.  Then your abilities will begin to deteriorate, perhaps slowly, but eventually you will be a creaky old dinosaur with rusted out skills.  Instead, keep building up your knowledge.  That way, you will continue to grow as a business owner.

Success Skill # 3:  Business skills.  You must be organized and focused and think like a business person.  That means ongoing prospecting for new clients, keeping good records, tracking expenses, mapping out goals and strategies, scrupulously managing your time, and more.

Angie realizes that she needs continually to market herself (so visit Bella by Angela, and I will remain her favorite Dad), offer coupon specials, strategic discounts, keep good records, share her business card with people she meets, and follow up on customers who have not showed up in a month or so.

She also understands time management, the need to control her time and activities, to work hard when she works, and to play easy with her husband and two daughters when she plays.  She knows, every day, what she needs to do to achieve her goals.  Most of all, she has learned to think like a business person, solely and totally responsible for the success of her business.

The bottom line:  Apply, practice and master these three skills.  Keep practicing them day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.  Do this and, like my daughter, you will not only become a success in your business, but you will stay a success.

The bottom line:  Work hard, make money, have fun … and achieve it all by applying the three success skills.  — JR

John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

Few things are impossible to diligence.  Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.”  — Samuel Johnson


My father was “not all that smart.”  Those were his words, not mine.  The rest of the phrase went like this:  “I just never gave up … ever.”

It worked out okay for him.  The first one in the family to go to college (and he did that during the Great Depression), he went on to become a respected physician and educator.  Not bad for a guy who thought of himself as not all that smart.

He is not alone.  Over the decades, I’ve met some brilliant failures.  I’ve also learned that success belongs to the persistent, to the men and women who are willing to put in long hours and who do not count their failures, but who focus on their goals.  They keep on going … and going … and going.

The big problem with geniuses – and even natural athletes – is that, too often, they know it.  I’ve seen talented young, “gifted” athletes who took their skills for granted.  They stopped practicing and working at getting better in the off season.  They saw themselves as naturals.  As a result, they eventually peaked, plateaued and then declined way before their time should have been up.

Then there are the ones who never let up.  Year round, they work out, practice, build their skills.  These are the men who are in the halls of fame.

It’s the same in business.  I’ve seen brilliant business owners who climbed effortlessly to the top.  However, the second a setback slammed them across the nose with a two-by-four, they folded up and quit.  In their hearts, they had no idea why they had been successful, so when the tough times came around, they had no idea what to do.

No, give me the sloggers every time.  They have a dream, and they work hard to achieve it, maintain it, save it, recover it when it crashes, and then rebuild it … as many times as necessary.  These are the men and women, by the way, who often have a handful of geniuses working for them.

The bottom line:  Work hard, work hard, work hard.  That’s how to build a business: with stubborn determination.  — JRI


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

Seek advice, but use your own common sense.” – Yiddish Proverb


As a business owner, I love good advice.  However, there is darn little of it out there, at least in terms of my specific situation.  I have also grown to detest unsolicited advice, if only because it always comes from people who (A) have no idea what I do; (B) are perfectly willing to risk my money, not theirs; and (C) tend to be dismal failures who have screwed up their own lives, so (I suspect) figure it is time to move on and try to help others screw up theirs.

So, when I want good advice, I first study an issue in as much detail as I can.  Then I go for a walk with Rocky, my Boxer, and chew over the information.  Eventually – sometimes instantly – I figure out the best course of action for me and for my business.  I generally give myself good advice.  It took a long time to learn to trust my instincts, though.

I once made the mistake of listening to sincere, well-intentioned people who had no experience, did not understand money, and did not understand business.  (I call it my soft-headed business phase.)  It was disastrous.  Their real purpose, more often than not, was to impress others with their unique ideas and methods for approaching everything from answering the phone to running a meeting to marketing to pet owners to cooking fish.

“Well, why not give it a shot?” they would advise, as they would sit back and begin to think up the next untested, outlandish idea to share with me.  As I said, these ideas always required my time and my money.  (I learned eventually that when someone said he/she was a “big-picture, concept person,” I should immediately turn tail and run.  That person had nothing to offer me or anyone else who lived and sweated and worked in the very real world of day-to-day details.)

In the end, it turned out that these dear people were having a ball … with my money.  They were bold and daring … again, with my money.  They were brilliant, brimming with amazing ideas; all they required was …. you guessed it: my money.

For me, it was a valuable and costly lesson.  The costly part was that it sent my otherwise solid business ventures into a tailspin.  The valuable part was that, once their fun part was over, they stuffed their hands into their pockets and left … so I never had to deal with them again.

So, when it comes to advice, here is my advice to you: 

  1. Never take business advice from a failure.  In business, money is one of the measures of success.  If someone cannot pay his or her own bills, why on God’s green earth would you want to take that person’s advice?
  2. Never take advice from a successful person … unless you ask him/her for it.  I know a number of people who are successful.  However, keep in mind that what worked for them need not necessarily work for you
  3. Never take advice from family or friends … unless they are your business partners.  The problem with family is that the relationship sometimes gets in the way of hard-headed business decisions.  You can end up making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.  So, keep family and friends out of the decision-making loop.
  4. Never give advice to anyone.  Unless you are an advisor and that is your job, why would you want to tell others how to start/run/fix/save their own businesses?  You have better ways to spend your time, and just because you are successful at what you do, that does not necessarily make you are an expert on what others should do.
  5. Ask unsolicited advice givers to pony up their own funds.  If their idea is so good, they should be willing to take the risk.  If they have no money, see point # 1, above.  This usually ends the conversation.
  6. Gain information and knowledge from seminars, business publications, videos, CDs, and books.  These are almost always more valuable than sitting at the knee of some guru for six weeks.  Read that person’s books instead.  Pour tons of information into your head.  And then …
  7. Learn to trust your own advice.  Learn, study, pay attention to your business.  Develop your instincts.  Eventually, your sixth-sense, your intuition, your experience and common sense (whatever you want to call it, except don’t call it luck or guess work) will grow.  Learn how to tap you’re your knowledge.  Again, it’s not about luck.  I have found that, when I have done my homework, studied my options, been patient, then made a clear-headed decision and stuck with it, it almost always worked out.

The bottom line:  Work hard, make money, have fun … and remember that the best advice for you will come from you.  — JRI



by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” – John Hancock


Genius is no guarantor of success.  Neither is hard work by itself.  I teach a one-day seminar for Fred Pryor/CareerTrack called “Dealing with Difficult People.”  One of the things I stress is that the genius, the brainiac-Mensa candidate, the man or woman with more sheer intelligence than the rest of the team combined … this person almost always ends up working for the one with superior people skills.  (I know one member of the Mensa genius club who once owned a successful manufacturing business … but who is now in doing time in a federal prison because of his arrogance and misguided belief that he was above the law.)

It’s true.  More often than not, the company president – the innovator, the truly successful individual — is the person who may have graduated from college with the middle-of-the-road C average, but who was born with – or, more likely, cultivated – a gift for relationship skills.

Abrasive people?  They end up stuck in the back room in a dead-end job.  I knew another fellow years ago who was one of the best industrial video producers and editors in the city in which I lived.  He was brilliant.  He could create video magic.  However, he had the charm of a toad.

He was brusque to the point of being downright rude.  Once, while working on a project together, I asked if he could be a little less obnoxious.  His furious reply:  “You hire me because I’m good, not because I’m a charm school graduate.  Now, why don’t you shut up so we can get this project wrapped up!”

By the way, did I mention that I was the client?  Six months later, worn out by his annoying personality, I found someone who was almost as good, but twice as pleasant.  I made the switch and never looked back.  I also heard a year later that the toad’s business had gone under.  A shame, because he certainly was good at what he did.

This fellow is not alone.  I know yet another fellow, a young, talented, hardworking manager.  He puts in long hours, but he lacks social skills and is indifferent to others. He answers the phone with a grunt; never bothers to get up when someone enters his office; would never think of giving an associate a compliment or asking, “How’s the family?”

As a result, he has been passed over time and time again at the company for which he works.  Again and again, he has fumed while less qualified men and women were promoted over him.  The sad part is that he doesn’t get it.  His response when “cheated” out of his promotion?  He has become more surly, ruder and less friendly every year.  Again, a shame, because he is one talented guy.

By the way, I speak from experience.  By nature, I have a prickly personality.  I can be impatient and intolerant (which is perhaps why I was asked to teach the “Difficult People” seminar).  It hurt me dearly as a young man trying to build a career.  Fortunately, when I finally decided to find out why my toast always seemed to land jelly-side down, I began to study successful people.

I discovered that almost all winners have several core traits in common.  These include…

  1. Industriousness. Logging four lackluster hours a day of make-believe toil time will not cut it; that would be a hobby, not a career.
  2. Education.  Study; take courses that enhance your knowledge;  Read; always have at least one inspiring and/or educational book or magazine on hand … and dedicate 30 minutes to reading it each day.  Never stop learning.  Never!
  3. Practice.  If you want to master a skill – whether marketing, developing people skills, sales skills, you name it – work on it.  Apply what you have learned over and over again until you “own” it.  Just as important, go ahead and fail at it over and over again.  Eventually, you will succeed.  Practice.
  4. Relationship skills.  No, this is not necessarily personality or charm.  Successful people are not delightful, smiling idiots.  However, they do know – and care about — people.  This is key.

How do you build those relationship skills?  It involves cultivating patience, empathy, and the ability to communicate clearly.  The goal:  As a friend once said about another friend, one with a true gift for people:  “Johnny could tell you to go to hell in a hand basket.  You’d be halfway there and thoroughly enjoying the trip before you realized that you’d been insulted.”

The key to people skills:  Learn how to read people and how to respond to their needs.  Put the focus on them, not on yourself.  If you can teach yourself to put yourself in another person’s shoes, to see him or her as having needs, goals, fears and concerns that are as real as yours, and then to focus on those needs, goals, fears and concerns, you will be a success.  That’s a promise.

It is no big secret.  Whether in sales or management, people like to work with people with whom they have a positive relationship.  People will cooperate with you not because you know a lot, but because they like you, respect you and trust you … and because you know a lot, too.  As Teddy Roosevelt said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

The bottom line:  Success results from relationshipsSo, work hard, make money, have fun … and learn how to work with people.  — JRI

John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.

John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur    

209  Church Street

Algoma, WI 54201

(920) 559-3722


Want more biz tips and support?  Visit




  •         Your Writing Says it All:  Why and How to Boost Your Written Communication Skills
  •         Are You a Buddy Or A  Boss? An Employee-Relations Primer
  •         Are You Ready to Become a Retire-preneur?
  •         Big-time Marketing on a Small-time Budget
  •         Building Brand Recognition
  •         Customer Service for Educational Institutions:  Contact Points & Opportunities
  •         Customer Service:  Going Beyond Have-a-Nice-Day
  •         Discover Your Company’s Competitive Advantage
  •         Finding Money: Overcoming the “No Money” Objection
  •         Great Customer Service:  Why & How
  •         Husbands, Wives & Business: How to Survive Working Together
  •         Husbands, Wives & Children: How to Survive in a Family Business
  •         Marketing Basics for Non-profits
  •         Selling:  The Greatest Job in the World
  •         Ten Sure-fire, Guaranteed Rules for Success in Business and in Life
  •         Ten Ways to Beat Business Burnout
  •         Ten Ways to Keep from Getting Burned When Hiring An Employee
  •         The Busy Business Owner/Manager’s Guide to a Pain-free Vacation
  •         The Dilemma of the Small Business Owner:  Creating an Effective Exit Strategy


Book now for 2012-13 conventions and training camps and save. 

Contact John directly by calling 920-559-3722; or email him at         


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

“In accomplishing anything definite,

a man renounces everything else.”  — George Santayana


Back in my lean, mean, meat-eating younger days, I would have agreed with the above quote from Harvard Philosopher (no, not the musician) George Santayana.  I was maniacally dedicated.  Business was my king … almost my god.

No, I was not ruthless; I never cheated anyone.  But I was relentless, and I always drove a hard bargain.  I worked myself hardest of all; I routinely worked 80 to 100 hours a week, doing the work of three or four people.  I started out wanting to provide for my young family.  Gradually, however, with every success, the quest became more important for its own sake.

I made money, did well.  I headed a small, profitable newsletter business and became known as one of the top three people in my industry (life insurance training and marketing).  I had no need to market because clients came to me.

Somewhere along the way, however, I got hard, indifferent, intolerant.  I began to think I was as good as people said I was.  Eventually, the family failed and, with that, the business failed.  The thing I noticed most as I stirred through the ashes of my life was that I was alone.  I had neglected my relationships.  In the years that followed, I floundered through a handful of half-hearted ventures, trying to reclaim my success.

Gradually, eventually, I figured it out:  I rebuilt relationships with people who I admired and loved (and learned to avoid those I didn’t).  Today, I continue to work hard (but now I do the work of just two people).  Though I always meet deadlines, I also always take time for a phone call from one of my granddaughters and willingly put aside my schedule to spend time with Susan, my “Favorite Interruption.”

Riches?  Today, I have enough.  In terms of material goods, I do not have too much, but certainly enough.  I measure my wealth in terms of time for loved ones, dirty hands from digging in the garden, a well-written business article or faith blog, a few miles walking on the trail with Rocky the Boxer, and a long, lingering dinner with friends. In these I am wealthy beyond belief.

Success?  I now know it as balance.  I am a capitalist, and I love to work.   But these days my work has a purpose, a reason, and it is not an end unto itself.  I may not die the richest man in the cemetery, but I suspect I will die (many years from now, I pray) a man of peace … a very successful man.

P.S.  These days, I’m happy as a pig in  mud.  Balance works.

What are your thoughts?  What is success to you?  Please share them with me.  Or go ahead and post them at The Freestyle Entrepreneur blog site.

Thanks, and have a joyful day.  As always, work hard, make money, have fun … and keep your life in balance.


John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

A few years ago, having decided to run away from the States for a while, I started a store on St. Thomas in the Caribbean that sold Jimmy Buffet shirts and other island-dream paraphernalia.  I studied when to help customers and when to stand back and let the sales cycle run its course.

One thing I learned was that when a customer seemed uncertain about buying one island shirt versus another, for example, I would approach and say something like, “Two beautiful shirts, don’t you think?”  Then, pointing to one, I would add, “This is one of our most popular items.”  The customer almost always made the purchase and bought the one I recommended.

That’s because customers often need our help arriving at a buying decision.    Whether retail or financial services or other products, assuming we have studied and understand the customers’ needs, and have identified several potential product solutions, the next step is to guide and motivate them to make a decision today.  Otherwise (and we’ve all seen this), they very well may say something like, “Uh huh, very nice.  I like it.  Let me think it over and get back to you.”  And with that, we have lost the sale, because they do not get back to us.  Just as important, the prospective buyers have failed to take an action that you both know they want and/or need.

The problem is that people tend to procrastinate.  They put off many decisions, sometimes just because they can.  It is as simple as that.  However, if you have done your homework – if they have a need/desire and you have a good solution that will meet that need and benefit them – there is absolutely no reason to defer the decision.  That is because, more often than not, a decision deferred is a decision that will never be made.  (Actually, it is a decision that has been made, but it is one to not take action to address the need, to solve the problem.)

That is why many successful business people phrase the call to action as an either/or decision, rather than a yes/no decision.  It operates on the assumption that the decision to act has already been made, and the only thing left to do is decide which of two viable choices is the one to select.

For example, let’s say your client agrees that he needs $500,000 of additional life insurance.  In your proposal, you may then put together one for whole life and another for term or a variable product.  After explaining the key features of both, you ask the client, “So, which one would you like to put in force today?”

In terms of asking for an appointment, the same principle applies.  Rather than asking if you can get together on Wednesday at 10:30, for example, ask, “Would Wednesday at 10:30 be good for you, or is Thursday at 1:15 better?”

Manipulative?  Far from it.  Our role is to present ourselves and our products and services in the most positive light.  We know that what we do is valuable.  Prospects may not always see it that way … until we have worked with them for a while.

If you are not sure, try this when it comes to making an appointment or asking for a buying decision:  “You wouldn’t want to get together next week to talk, would you?” or “Well, that’s the product.  It meets your needs and works within your budget.  You wouldn’t want to buy it, would you?”

So, work hard, make money, have fun … and guide potential buyers toward a buying decision that benefits both of you.  — JRI

The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.

John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur    

209  Church Street

Algoma, WI 54201

(920) 559-3722



Want more biz tips and support?  Visit



by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur


Building up a customer/client base can be hard work … until you get it down to a system.  One effective system is to establish half a dozen or so mutually beneficial relationships with what are known as “Centers of Influence.”

These are people who can send customers your way.  But it goes beyond just sitting back and waiting for them to show up.  Instead, get names and contact them.

A good Center of Influence can provide you with names of men and women you can approach on a favorable basis, often simply by saying something like: “Susan _________ was kind enough to give me your name and suggested that we would enjoy working together.  If convenient for you, why don’t we explore the possibilities by getting together on (date) at (time) to talk?  Or would (other date) at (other time) be better for you?”

Or if you are in retail or services, contact them and invite them to come in.  It works.

Centers of Influence are generally people in key positions of respect in the community or authority in an organization.  They may be in charge of or at least have access to member­ship rosters.

For example, a friendly banker or CPA, without divulging any privileged information, can provide the names of businesses that are expanding their opera­tions.  A real estate salesperson can send you the names of people moving into certain neighborhoods, the neighborhoods in which most of your ideal prospects reside.

Think of this as a variation on the concept of networking.  However, key to working with a Center of Influence is establishing a solid personal or professional relationship.  (This is unlike networking, which can be nothing more than a business card exchange with near strangers.)  This individual must be someone you can trust and who can trust you in turn.

Also, for the relationship to work, you must make it a two-way street.  Promote the individual and organization or business with which you have a relationship with a Center of Influence.

Centers of Influence often make good members of your personal board of directors, too.  These are men and women with whom you meet regularly to discuss everything from local events to who is doing what in your community.  (Hint:  Successful people in business rarely eat lunch or breakfast alone!  They prospect for new clients and customers and build relationships with existing clients.)

Ideally, your Centers of Influence should:

  1. Be known and respected in the community or your area of business activity.

2.   Be favorably well-disposed to both you and your products and services.

3.   Be good prospectors themselves.  Ideally, they understand the definition of a “qualified” prospect and are alert to changing situations of their acquaintances.

4.  Be joiners.  Very often, they are the men and women who are active in their houses of worship, country clubs, and civic organizations.  They belong to The Optimists, Toastmasters, The Lions, and the Rotary.  In short, they get around and are well known in a positive way.

To develop your Centers of Influence:  Start by making a list of people who, because of their occupa­tions or their professions, know a great many of the right kind of people … the kind of people with whom you want to do business.

Also, get involved yourself.  Participate in the annual community golf outing, even if you are a lousy golfer; share a news article about one of your Centers of Influence that praises them or their business; send a card of congratulations when you hear of some special event or achievement for which they have been recognized; and, most of all, send referrals to their business, as well.

In short, if you go out of your way to meet them at the right time and under the right conditions, you can lay the groundwork of a relationship so that it will be logical for you — with­out strain or embarrassment — to ask them to sponsor you to their friends and acquaintances.  Or, even better, they will bring it up themselves.

Then cherish and appreciate them.  Regard your Centers of Influence as your highly valued silent partners, and then make them in deed and in truth your partners by building your relationship with them on a sound basis.

So, work hard, make money … and start building a powerful network of Centers of Influence.  They easily can meet your prospecting and client-building needs … permanently.   — JRI

The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.

John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur    

209  Church Street

Algoma, WI 54201

(920) 559-3722


One of the keys to success for many businesses is to create/promote a sense of belonging, of community, even if the business is far-flung and worldwide. We see this in “buy local” campaigns. We also see it in expansive chains such as Starbucks, which creates an atmosphere of the neighborhood coffee shop … even in busy airports. We see it when business people think to offer referrals, not just request them.

It works in small towns. It also works globally. The premise is that we enjoy working with people we know, people we like, and people with whom we feel comfortable. People we trust. It’s about the relationship, whether that person/business is down the road or down under, below the equator.

So, think small town and beyond the borders. It is an incredibly powerful attraction. No matter what our business or line of work, we all have neighbors and communities. Even in a global business environment, we live and work in a neighborhood. (If you doubt that, think about the connections we make on Facebook.) Most of all, we all want to do business with friends and friends of friends. So, you need consciously to build your community.

Locally, if you have one client who needs lawn care and another who owns a lawn-care business, put them in touch with each other. It is good for them and good for you. In other words, just as you ask for referrals from your clients, look for opportunities to give them as well.

Globally, if I have a friend/associate in Hong Kong who needs a reliable on-demand book publisher, and I have one I rely on that is located in Canada, I can and will make the referral.

Remember, what helps my neighbor helps me. Bonus: You end up working with a clientele of friends … and friends of friends. It is the sweetest way to do business. In fact, it doesn’t seem like business at all. Sure, you may never meet face to face. That doesn’t change anything. You’re global neighbors. So, work hard, make money … and have fun building a neighborhood of client-friends. — JRI


You know as well as I that successful business owners are dedicated … sometimes maniacally so.  They give it their all … and they succeed.  It is not about luck; it is the result of ferocious dedication.

So, do you want to be a success?  Here is how:  Burn your ships!

In 1519, the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez landed his small force of 500 soldiers and 100 sailors on the shores of the Yucatan Peninsula in what is now Mexico.  They arrived in 11 ships, and they were far, far from their homeland thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean.  (This was only 27 years after the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus.)  Their purpose was to conquer to Aztecs and seize their vast stores of gold. 

Upon disembarking from the ships, Cortez announced a decision guaranteed to “motivate” his troops by putting them, quite literally, in a do-or-die position.  He ordered all the ships burned, thereby cutting off any possible escape should events go poorly for them.  They had no choice:  Succeed or die. 

It worked.  With this small force, he conquered all of Mexico and established a Spanish empire in the New World that lasted several hundred years.  His troops were probably less than thrilled; however, they must have certainly given their expedition nothing short of their total commitment.

The point:  You cannot toe-dip if you want to achieve success in any endeavor.  You cannot say, “I think I’ll give it a try and see how it works out.”  Success requires total commitment, a determination to look forward with single-mindedness.  You must decide, “Yes, this is what I will do, and I will succeed!” rather than, “Well, I’ll give it three months and see how it works out.” 

Lack of dedication – anything short of total commitment – will guarantee either (A) complete failure or (B) even worse, years of limping along producing blasé, mediocre, so-so results. 

So, if you are looking to become a success, do not just “give it a shot.”   Save that for cubicle-dwelling wage slaves who put in time in exchange for a safe paycheck and benefits.  Instead, give it your all.  Do that and you will succeed … if only because you have no choice.  But that’s what it takes.       

So, work hard, give it your absolute, total commitment, burn your ships … and then do what it takes to become the best you can be.  Period!  — JRI


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

Fifty years ago, it was a man’s world.  The majority of women who were in business were secretaries and personal assistants.  Women rarely ran the show.  That has since changed … a lot.  In fact, the very nature of business has been overhauled and re-invented since women began to move up the management/entrepreneurial ladder.

The male approach to business:  Men tend to manage with a big stick.  We see business in terms of warfare and sports rivalries.  We go head to head with our competitors in a winner-take-all-loser-get-nothing race to conquer and achieve victory.  We’re not all that big on cooperation.  Our pecking order tends to be top-down vertical. 

I remember that’s pretty much how it was when I entered the corporate world in 1977.  All key managers were men, and the president of the company openly pitted his vice presidents against each other.  The rivalries were ferocious.  The idea was to work long hours, survive the contest, and beat the competitors both in and outside the corporation.

The female approach to business:  Gradually, women began working their way into positions of authority and responsibility.  At first, there was the stereotype that women made lousy bosses.  Even many women thought so and openly said they’d rather have a male boss than a female boss any time.  (Many said the same about the then-male-dominated field of gynecology, too.)

Well, today, women are not only accepted as managers, but many business-owning entrepreneurs are female.  Here are a few stats, courtesy of The Center for Women’s Business Research:

  • Fifteen of the Fortune 500 companies have women as CEOs.
  • More than 10 million U.S. businesses have women as either 50% partners or outright owners.
  • Twenty percent of all businesses that earn $1 million or more are owned by women.

The feminine advantage:  Especially in the area of small business and especially in today’s tough-as-nails economy, women have transformed how many businesses work.  For one thing, women tend to focus on cooperation and community rather than competition and go-it-alone-individualism.  Their management style tends to be flatter, more horizontal, lacking the pecking order. 

Most of all, while men tend to be solitary, women tend to be more natural as networkers.  They know that, very often, a series of related businesses can do much better when they share marketing efforts and research.  They also tend to help each other through tough times. 

Oh, and just for the record, many of the female entrepreneurs and managers I know are just as ambitious and hard-driving as the men.  Most just do it with more finesse.

The bottom line:  When looking at business management, look at individuals who bring the best of both sexes, from the relentless, never-say-die drive of men to the determined relationship-building skills of women.  – JRI


A Lesson in Customer Service:


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

Can one foolish statement make or break your business?  Well, this is a story I heard at least 45 years ago from a man, a friend and mentor, who experienced it at least 20 years before that.  It was one snapshot moment that made him a lifelong enemy of one of the world’s most famous jewelry store.

Joe was a young man about to pop “The Question” to his girlfriend, Marlene.  He had been given a smallish diamond ring, a family heirloom, for the occasion.  However, it needed to be refit and resized.  To Joe, it was the biggest, most beautiful, and most important diamond ring in the world. 

Excited and proud, he brought the ring into Tiffany’s in New York City.  Grinning from ear to ear, he approached the first counter in the store, held out the ring, and said he needed to have it resized for his soon-to-be-fiancée.  As Joe told me the story years later, he remembers that the man behind the counter looked first at him and then down at the ring, and then he announced in an icy cold tone, “Small stones to the rear.”

Pop!  There went Joe’s balloon.  Crushed!  Shattered!  Deflated!  I suspect he hesitated, took a step to the rear of the store, and then paused again.  All I do know for sure is that he then turned on his heels, walked out of the world’s most famous jewelry store, and never returned … ever.

Now, I suspect that this snide, pretentious fop was not indicative of Tiffany’s customer service policy.  Still, there he was, at the front of the store, in the role of greeter.  (There’s a Wal-Mart joke in here somewhere, but we’ll skip it.)  All I do know for sure is that it took just one stupid, thoughtless comment to destroy what could have become a positive, profitable, decades-long relationship.

The point:  (1) Teach your people the why and how of quality customer service; and (2) get rid of those employees who do not buy into the program.  Any questions?

That having been said: Work hard.  Make money.  Have fun.  And keep in mind that quality customer service is money in the bank … while bad customer service means big losses in sales and profits.  – JRI


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

As a hands-on manager-owner, your most important business-building tool is your attitude

I saw a great example of how this works a few months ago when meeting with two fast-food restaurant managers, both affiliated with the same chain.  The stores were almost identical in terms of demographics, and both relied heavily on part-time teenagers as their primary source of labor.

One manager complained that she could not get good help, that teenagers today did not know how to work or want to learn.  When speaking about her team, she seethed with annoyance.  She had nothing positive to say about her employees and had a great deal of turnover. 

The other manager, on the other hand, liked his staff and openly expressed his pleasure at their youthful exuberance and energy.  He had nothing but praise for his workers; he also  had about one-third the turnover as the other manager. 

What was the difference?  Attitude!  That was it, and everything else flowed from that.  When it came to their employees, I asked both managers three key questions:  “Who hired them?  Who trained them?  Who kept the slackers on staff?”  

The first manager, desperate for help, hired pretty much anyone willing to fill out an application.  Her training was spotty and on-the-fly.  She also filled out the weekly schedule without consulting her employees.  “These are your hours,” she told them.  No wonder she had an attitude problem with her team.  They caught it from her.

 The second manager, on the other hand, carefully screened all applicants.  He knew that hiring the wrong person was worse than being short-staffed.  He took his time.  He also either personally trained all new hires or had his assistant manager do the job.  For the first three months on the job, no employee was more than a quick shout-out from a supervisor when he or she had a question, and the employees were encouraged to ask lots of questions.  As a result, the training was monitored, consistent and thorough. 

 He was also quick to correct a mistake.  When an employee came on board with a bad attitude or proved to be less than reliable, he let that person go as quickly as possible.  That way, his good employees saw that he was fair and not asking them to pick up for a slacker.   

Finally, he worked with his employees when it came time for scheduling.  It was a team effort.  And when a conflict arose, he either helped resolve it or jumped in himself to fill the gap. He also put in double time during final exam time, so his employees could focus on their studies.    

Most of all, all that he did was nothing more than a reflection of his positive attitude toward his employees and his business.  He treated his team with respect, while also insisting that they work hard.  He was committed to them and, in turn, they were committed to him.

The bottom line:  If you have problems growing your business and/or keeping good help, do a little honest soul searching.  Remember, when a business succeeds, all credit should go to the employees.  And when your business struggles or you have morale and attitude problems, that is because YOU are doing something wrong. 

So, work hard, make money, have fun … and make sure you bring the right attitude to your business every day.  — JRI  

Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes
are a secret power working twenty-four
hours a day, for good or bad. It is of
paramount importance that we know how
to harness and control this great force.”
                        — Tom Blandi

John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur    

209  Church Street

Algoma, WI 54201

(920) 559-3722



Want more biz tips and support?  Visit


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

It’s that time … time to set goals.  Start thinking about where you want to be by the end of 2012. 

 Are goals important?  In business, they’re everything.  If you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there … or, well, you get the picture.  More to the point, you’ll just wander around, stumbling along, drifting from one day’s pressing moment to another, putting out fires and getting nowhere. 

 As a friend once said: “I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re making darn good time.”  Without goals, if you do achieve anything of value, it will be by chance, pure luck.  Most of all, you can end up putting out a lot of time and effort for very little return.  A very inefficient way to do business.   

 Goals give us focus.  More to the point, they enable us to concentrate our energy and resources on the things that matter and not let us become distracted by the thing that don’t.  I know people who have three or four key goals.  That’s all they need.  However, those goals give them direction for  what they will be doing every day. 

 Goals expand our limits.  Without goals, we can usually do the work of mortals.  With goals, we can expand and grow, reach beyond our capabilities.  (Yes, imagine that:  beyond our capabilities!)  You can establish new boundaries, set records, achieve great things.  When I’m really on task, I can do the work of three people.  Nobody ever went beyond his or her average, every-day limits without a goal to do so. 

 How to set goals you can achieve:

  1. Decide what you want.  Take your time.  Better yet, take a few days away from the office/work just to ponder what you really want  to achieve in 2012.
  2. Keep the list short.  In fact, the fewer goals the better.  You do not need a two- or three-page list.  That can become distracting in itself.  Instead, imagine having just one or two rock-solid goals.  For example, how about this one?  “I will unlock the secret of seminar sales and become one of the top ten trainers in my organization by December 31, 2012.”  Imagine concentrating all your efforts on that one goal.  Can’t lose.    
  3. Make them yours … not your spouse’s, not your father’s, not what you think someone else wants of you.  If you answer to boss, work out your goals together.  Do not just sit back and have the boss tell you your goals.  That will not work.  They must be yours.  What do YOU want to achieve in 2012? I once decided that I should have a goal of becoming a multi-millionaire within two  years.  It never felt right, and, as it turned out, it was the longest, most miserable two weeks of my life.  No, I did not achieve my goal in two weeks.  It took me two weeks to realize that the goal of money was not what I wanted.  It did not motivate me.  I realized that I wanted the things money could buy, not the money itself.  So, I retooled my goals.  
  4. Make them lofty, so you have to stretch a bit, but not so high that there is no way you can achieve them.  Challenge yourself; make yourself break a sweat.  Remember that goal  above about becoming “one of the top ten trainers”?  Well, why not shoot for the Number One spot?  Again, why not?  Somebody has to be there.  Why not you?   
  5. Make them specific.  The more specific, the better.  A general goal would be, “Get in shape.”  But a specific goal would say, “Get in shape by joining a health club and working out 3 days a week, and losing 20 pounds within two months.” 
  6. Make them measurable.  They need to have numbers, as in:  “I will make three sales a week” or “I will increase my gross sales by 15% by the end of 2012.”  If your goal is just to “increase sales,” well, good luck; that is not measurable. 
  7. Make them attainable.   In other words, they must be realistic.  No, this is not a contradiction of the fourth goal above, which is to make your goals lofty.  But they must be realistic.  For example, if you are a soft blob today, a lofty but realistic goal may be to run a marathon by the end of next year.  (My brother did in it three months, though the first one nearly killed him.)  However, the goal of winning a marathon, of taking the number one spot, may be too much for one year.  Save that one for year two or three.  The problem with setting goals that are pie-in-the sky impossible is that they are in fact self-destructive.  Not only will they be almost impossible to achieve, but they will discourage you from trying.
  8. Make them timely.  Do not set a goal that takes 40 years to achieve.  Set goals that can be met within 12 or 24 months.  I like to have three levels of goals:  short (30 days), mid-range (30 days to six months), and annual goals (achievable by the end of a year).  I also have long-range goals, such as retirement by age 65, but these are outgrowths of smaller, shorter goals.  The point is that they must be timely.  Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.  This also anchors them within a timeframe. 
  9. Translate your goals into daily activities.  Break up your goals into bite-size pieces.  Example:  Let’s say I want to become a top trainer.  That may mean, as one activity, that I need to observe each of today’s top ten trainers at least once during the coming year, so one activity may be observe one a month, starting  in January.  Another activity may be to rehearse and train one hour a day, five days a week, to perfect my skills.    
  10. Focus only on the things you want.  The idea of goals is that they are exclusive.  Do not get sidetracked doing non-goal-achieving activities.  Concentrate exclusively on the things that will get you where you want to be.      

 So, work hard, make money, have fun … and set your goals for 2012. 


“I never did anything worth doing
by accident, nor did any of my
inventions come by accident.” 
                      — Thomas Edison   


John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur


The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.

John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur    

209  Church Street

Algoma, WI 54201

(920) 559-3722



Want more biz tips and support?  Visit



Biz Humor


by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

The sales professional makes the difference when it comes to both making the sale and maximizing the sale. This is perhaps best illustrated in an anecdote told by an associate years ago.  When asked, “What’s a salesperson?” he replied:

 “Let me tell you what a salesperson is. A fellow walked into a department store and asked for a sales job. Since the applicant had no previous sales experience, the man­ager was naturally leery. But having a soft heart, he said, ‘I’ll give you one day to prove yourself. You can start right away in sporting goods.’

“Later in the day, the sales manager dropped by to see how his new salesman was doing and found him talking to a customer. ‘You’ve made a good selection. This is a terrific fishing rod, the best we carry. But you know, the really big fish aren’t by the shore. You have to get out into the middle of the lake. What you need is a boat.’

“The customer hesitated for a moment, but finally agreed. The salesman went on. ‘Of course, by the time you row out to where the really big fish are biting, you’ll be too exhausted to enjoy yourself. Fortunately, we have a motor that’s just right for that boat. And you won’t find it for a better price anywhere in town.’ The customer couldn’t turn down a deal like that, so he bought the motor, too. ‘Now, that should just about do it,’ the salesman concluded, and then hesitated. ‘How are you going to get that boat to the lake?” he asked. The customer didn’t know, and it wasn’t long before the new salesman had sold him a trailer.

“When the customer left, the sales manager came rush­ing over. ‘You’re terrific! You just made the single big­gest sale in the history of our store! And just think, all because the customer came in to buy a fishing pole.’

“The new salesman looked at the sales manager and said, ‘He didn’t come in to buy a fishing pole. He wandered in, and we started chatting. When he mentioned that his wife was in the next department buying shoes because she was going to her sister’s for the weekend, I told him it sounded like a dull couple of days for him and asked if he’d ever thought of taking up fishing.’ Now that’s a salesman!”

So work hard, make money, have fun … and sell like you mean it.


Tales from the Trenches …

by John Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur

[If you have a story of business success or failure – how you did something amazing right or downright stupidly wrong, and would care to share it – send me an email with as much detail as possible.  If your tale is chosen, I will feature it here and send you a copy of my book, The Back to Basics Book of Selling.]


A long time ago, during my wanderlust days, I started a Jimmy Buffett store, The Last Mango in Paradise, on St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands.  It had winner written all over it. 


Though the choice of St. Thomas was not perfect (the island is rife with racial tension and has a very bad business climate), the business plan was rock solid.  I projected that we would be in the black and making profits by the end of one year, and from there I projected profits growing by 15% or more a year.  It was a winner, with a terrific and multi-generational market, based on the ongoing popularity of the singer Jimmy Buffett. 


However, I made two mistakes, both involving personnel:  First, in a long moment of mental stupidity, I made my wife (a second wife, with no financial stake in my life) at that time my equal business partner.  I did this even though (1) she had zero business experience, other than as a clerk in various retail stores; and (2) the investment capital consisted 100 percent of my money.  (See this one coming yet?  I didn’t.  Oh, but there is more.)


Second, I hired my wife’s daughter and – just to prove how stupid a person can be when he puts his mind to it – the daughter’s boyfriend.


From the beginning, right after all the legal documents were signed, I knew I was in trouble.  As a businessman, I know that running a business involves continual (if not continuous) attention to detail.  Once we had the store up and running, I devoted my days, endlessly, to finding ways to increase sales by a percent or two here and there, as well as cutting expenses by a few cents here, a dollar or two there. 


Meanwhile, my wife (ex-wife today and long gone, by the way) thought that running a business meant sitting behind the counter and ringing up sales.  Just as bad, we ended up padding the daughter and boyfriend’s hours.  Why?  Because they needed the money.  In the end, challenged at every turn, I watched the business go under, right when it should have begun to take off and make money. 


The moral to the story:  A business exists to make money.  It is NOT a social (or family) welfare program.  If it had it to do over again, I would have hired the wife as an employee (if at all) and never have hired the daughter and boyfriend … except maybe from time to time, on a part-time basis. 


So, lesson learned.  Several hundred thousand dollars poorer, but a lot wiser … and still kicking!  It was a great idea, one destined to make lots of money for someone.  However, I made several important decisions for the wrong reasons.  They cost me big time. 


When it comes to your business, be hard-nosed.  No matter what friends, family and the social engineers may say (none of whom is going to risk a penny of his/her own money in your business), a business exists to make things and to make money.


So work hard, make money, have fun … and keep control of your business.   


John R. Ingrisano
The Freestyle Entrepreneur




I can pick winners and losers.  As the Great Recession continues to stumble along, more and more businesses are finding that there is just no more fat to be cut.  Many have pared back, cut down, reduced expenses to next to nothing, and are just holding on … hoping and wishing.

Bad news:  These aren’t the ones who will survive.  I have been watching businesses as they respond to today’s ridiculous economy.  Here is what I am seeing:

The winners will be those who have all along kept right on investing in growth and innovation.  They were doing it long before the recession hit, are doing it today, and will keep on doing it in the future, long after the recession is history.

They dedicate X percent of revenue to expanding into new markets, bringing on board new equipment, updating their marketing and sales techniques, investing in money-saving technology, adding new products and means of production.  These are the companies that invest in themselves.


Many of them are prospering now – yes, right in the middle of the Great Recession — even while their competitors are closing their doors.  Just as important, when the bad times end, they will be positioned to expand market share, partially because they are among the handful of survivors.


The losers are the ones who have looked only to cut back and hunker down.  They cut back on training, cut back on product innovation, cut back on sales and marketing, cut back on inventory, cut back on staff.  They have a hunker-in-the-bunker mentality.


These companies are just hoping the bad times end soon.  In the meantime, they will shrink and weaken and, very possibly, close their doors.  If they survive, they will be the struggling, out-of-date dinosaurs compared to their competitors who kept on investing and planning during the recession.


What you need to do:  No one knows when the Great Recession will end.  It doesn’t matter.  There is always money to be made.  So, climb out of the bunker and look for meaningful ways to strengthen your business.  Don’t just keep paring it back and hoping for the best.


Is there a new process that will reduce production expenses by five percent or distribution costs by three percent?  Is there a new product line that will fill a growing market niche and boost revenues by four percent?  Is there a key potential employee who can help you update your thinking and tap into a new market or help you make the technological leap into the Twenty-first Century?


Good luck.  These are tough times.  Still, that’s no reason to sit back … or worse, bury your head in the sand.


As always, work hard, make money, have fun … and keep on investing in your business.


John R. Ingrisano

The Freestyle Entrepreneur



The Freestyle Entrepreneur – winner of the 2010 Top 35 Entrepreneur Blog awards from OnLine MBA.
John Ingrisano
The Freestyle Entrepreneur    
209  Church Street
Algoma, WI 54201
(920) 559-3722

Want more biz tips and support?  Visit