Author: Jeff Haines

Don’t Confuse Business Strategy With Tactics

Entrepreneurs without formal business training often begin their startup at a distinct disadvantage to their competition. With lots of practical business experience, they’ve made a long list of all the things they need to do to make their startup vision become a smashing success. They may indeed have all the ingredients to make for themselves a profitable go of it, but may not be able to tell the difference between business strategy and tactics. The difference is important when setting priorities for an effective entrepreneurial action plan. The difference between the two can be illustrated through the metaphor of planning a road trip. Your goal is to get from San Francisco, 750 miles east to Salt Lake City. So you pull out a map. You have a choice of three routes: Highway I80, the fastest but most dreary route, US50, the scenic route through Yosemite or I5, the fun but slow route to LA, then I15 through Las Vegas and north to SLC. Choosing the route and drawing it out on the map is the strategy. You ask yourself, “Do I need to get there as fast as possible or do I want to enjoy myself along the way?” Those choices are strategic because they look at the big picture, without concern for the details. Once the route is chosen, you begin considering what is the best way to get...

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Fired Up About New Products From the HPBExpo

The Christmas animated film character Heat Miser would have felt right at home visiting last week’s Hearth Patio and BBQ Expo in Salt Lake City. Of the more than 350 exhibitors, most were showing off their high-end fireplaces, patio heaters and BBQ grills. Looking for what’s new in the application of fire, we found innovation mostly among the smaller, entrepreneurial exhibitors. Here’s a list of our favorite products:   Fire Disk – If you’ve been frustrated in trying to cook a camp breakfast or tailgaiting feast for more than four, the FireDisk is for you. Its base made from a 22” diameter farm plow disc, this sturdy, propane-heated griddle is large enough to fit a dozen hamburgers, a giant heap of scrambled eggs, or a paella feast for 10. The unit quickly breaks down into three flat pieces that stow neatly into the back of your pickup or hang with a half-dozen inches of clearance on your garage or shed wall. Suggested retail price: $399. The smaller FireDisk Mini retails for $379. WiFire Remote – You’re on your way home from a long day at work. Instead of arriving home to a cold dark house, you can turn on your gas log fireplace remotely with the patented WiFire switch with the accompanying app loaded on your smartphone. Estimated ship date: Mid-April, 2014. Suggested retail price: $449. CycloFlame – Until now,...

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Web Scrubbing: Lots of Work. No Soap or Water Required

I was online shopping on the site of a major retailer last week looking for a certain pair of shoes. A couple days later, the company’s customer service wrote to apologize, explaining the item I wanted was no longer in stock because it was last year’s model. I was miffed by what I saw as a careless clerical error by the company and ended up driving to a brick and mortar store to buy a different model. No doubt, online shoppers unwittingly encounter errors in product information every day. Large online stores carry hundreds, even thousands of products, many of which become obsolete less than a year after being posted. Smaller online sites with less back-end support are rife with inaccurate product descriptions, specifications and often omit important information about the product altogether. As a consumer, it’s easy to blame the company selling the products for inaccurate product information, but many large online retailers actually have few formal processes or staff in place to ensure each item has accurate and comprehensive specifications. To ensure complete and accurate information on their customers’ sites, manufacturers and importers need to assign responsibility to one of their own staff or intern who will regularly undertake the often painstaking work of reviewing product descriptions, specifications, images, drawings, features, benefits and any certifications for every product resold on the web. The marketing term for this...

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What I Learned at CES about Packaging

It shouldn’t surprise anyone reading this that most of the exhibitors in the Eureka Tech Zone (startup section) at CES earlier this month were inventors and designers with little to no marketing experience. They were there to show off their brilliant innovations meant to save consumers time, money and delight them at the same time. When asked if their product was ready for retail sale, they often held out the item and replied that sure, it works great. What a large majority of these entrepreneurs might have overlooked was to have packaging designed for their products so that they would be truly “Retail Ready”. If you’re selling your products in bulk or through the internet only, your packaging doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional, providing necessary information. If it belongs on a store shelf, read on. Although it seems like a small thing, dozens of decisions must be made when developing the package (and label) for a gizmo. How to begin? Visit stores where you want to get your product on the shelf. Look at your category and how similar products are packaged. Examine the materials used, their quality, thickness and finish. Then review the graphic design and copy. The consumer should quickly be able to “get” what’s in the package and why it could be of benefit to her. Note the packages that do this most effectively....

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Our Favorite Things From CES 2014

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year featured some impressive offerings of new products from giants like Audi (laser beam headlights—as if they’re not blindingly bright enough already) and LG with its stylishly curved TV screen. These product innovations seem to offer more of a “cool factor” than any useful improvements to the products. The real innovation at CES 2014 could be found mostly among the startups and smaller exhibitors who managed to combine cool and useful. Here’s a list of our favorites: 10. iSonea’s AirSonea Wheeze Rate Monitor This small, hand-held device syncs to your smartphone to help asthmatics better monitor their condition. When placed against the user’s windpipe, the AirSonea uses proprietary Acoustic Respiratory Monitoring technology to assess wheeze rate. The data collected is sent to the user’s smartphone and to the user’s physician, who can quickly direct the user to take the appropriate action. U.S. Market introduction planned for Q3 2014. 9. Handscape All computer tablet and smartphone users know the challenge of holding their device and quickly entering data, typing messages and playing games. Handscape places a touchpad on the back side of a user’s device that enables them to enter data from any hand holding position and to see their operating hands on current task view without using camera or imaging devices as if it were see-through. Users can expect to see...

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