How Craig’s List Almost Destroyed My Business
- Michael Patrick Murphy 12/19/2011 (updated 1/15/2012)
I always knew that Craig Newmark’s Craig’s List had some very frustrating aspects. But I kept saying to myself, “It’s free, how can I complain?” Sure you couldn’t repost very fast because you’d get an error that Craig can’t type that fast, and sure, it wasn’t that elegant of an interface for your customers, and sure any ruthless competitor could flag your ads for any reason, and sure there were tons of spammers and junk mailers that hit on your ads. But there were lots of phone calls so that I could sell things. For three years, Craig’s List was my marketing vehicle for selling furniture, lamps, accessories and other bobbles. It drew people to my websites and I grew way to dependent on it as my sole means of marketing my things.
Then one day, I decided to open a store. That decision cost about $7,500 to get started. On the same morning that the movers were getting my things into the store, I tried to log onto my Craig’s List account only to find that it had been put on hold. My sole sales vehicle was gone. Here I was just laying out a small fortune to open my store and Craig’s List is gone for me. They gave no reason. All over the Internet people theorize why it happens, but nobody knows for sure and Craig’s List isn’t talking. Is it something a ruthless competitor did? I may never know. Rumors say its a Craig’s List bot that got me for who knows what reason. Today I use eBay’s classifieds. It is so far, much better than Craig’s List in every way, but it’s so new that few people know about it. Not only does it not have all the faults found in Craig’s List, but it is more elegant for the end user with numerous add-ons like Facebook postings. I just wish people would hurry up and shop there. The deals should be better because for now, there are probably more sellers than buyers. Perhaps if enough people move to eBay classifieds, Craig’s List will get its act together and at least tell folks why their account gets put on hold. For me, it is a reminder not to keep all my eggs in one basket. You never know when the Internet will fail you in one way or another. Be prepared for chaos. It is always right around the corner
Of course there’s always a payback for the energy we put into the universe as apparently Craig now thinks that his own business is threatened by an external force. This was scene at the top of the Sacremento Craig’s List page on January 15, 2012.
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Sometimes, as Yahoo might attest to when it lost ground to Google, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Well Craig, what comes around seems to go around. What do you think? Email me so I can send a Haiku back to you, buddy!
Don’t Dance Where Elephants Play
- Michael Patrick Murphy 3/29/2010
I understand from a recent article in The Economist, that the Germans are doing quite well. The expression above is apparently common there. While the rest of the world chases the big new industries in high tech, crowding each other out in areas where there is inevitably only one winner, like eBay, or PayPal or Google, the Germans took the sidelines by playing in quieter staple industries that deal with life’s common needs. Few kids in school have ambitions to become the “paper clip king.” However they would be wise to note that this is one reason why German small business has done somewhat better than most Western style economies.
You can capitalize on the concept by examining your company’s product positioning. See where it plays into the market place. Ask yourself if you can be the “paperclip king” in your own industry. For example, I need some jean shorts. It’s winter time. Kohl’s doesn’t have jean shorts in the winter time. Steinmart doesn’t have the shorts either. Even Target doesn’t have the shorts. What if you did? In other words, buyers play the same game at every store. The same is true of Home Depot and Lowe’s in the hardware industry. There are days I swear they use the same buyer! He works 1 out of 365 days a year and spends the rest of his huge salary in the bars and on the beach at Waikiki. Sometimes it’s wise not to jump into the crowded trendy industries and instead to supply the things everyone else seems to have forgotten.
What Makes a Successful Businessman?
“Attitude and Character in Business” Dedicated to Small Businessman Extraordinaire, Ken Lipska (Feb. 27, 1976 - March 15, 2010 - Michael Patrick Murphy 3/29/2010
If we are on this earth for any length of time, most of us have thoughts of what a successful businessman is made of. He is someone who juggles income and expenses within some enterprise to the extent he consistently makes a profit. Often, a businessman doesn’t necessarily own the business. He may simply work at or manage one. However, what still makes him a business man is that he takes ownership of his or own actions and his role within the company. When he’s good—I mean really, really good—it’s almost the same thing as being the actual owner. He cares about his customers like an owner would or should.
Sure, “That’s almost it in a nutshell.” But, as with anything, there’s a story that occurs between point A and point B. That’s the interesting part that goes beyond the profit and loss statement. Unless you have stock in the man, nobody wants to count his money all day. We are more intrigued in how his success happened. Small business success is elusive and the odds of succeeding are often against the small businessman. Government regulations and manipulations and all the modern economic chaos add to the challenges, so it always pays to listen to those that are successful. Sometimes that voice is very modest. Ken Lipska, the man behind my lesson, was only a bar tender-manager—the best I have ever known. Somehow, his success seemed almost effortless!
For Ken, success was about relationships and being passionate about what he did. It was about being warm and having a positive attitude. It was about being greatful for the fruits of his labors. It was about sharing that with everyone he came in contact with. With Ken, the customer was sincerely important. You could see this small businessman everyday of the week and he would treat you as though he hadn’t seen you in months. He respected his customers. It wasn’t the canned respect that we have become used to from many businesses, (especially large corporate ones). Instead, it was sincere respect ingrained in his nature. Ken really enjoyed and liked people. Of course, this worked beautifully for him because business is all about relating to people. Ken had found his calling. He was the opposite of the snobbish or arrogant bartender who made you kowtow for a the opportunity to have him serve you. Liking folks is an obvious prerequisite. Everyone from customer to management to co-worker—all received the same treatment. He satiated our desire to feel important.
In this world, where we’re all just one in 700 billion, the feeling that we are significant is easily diminished. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been going to the same Mcdonalds for over ten years and nobody there greets me by name or perhaps even knows it. That is more the norm these days and can be a little depressing. At the end of the day, some of us find ourselves sitting at a bar having a “recuperation” drink. Ask anyone who has tried to become the number one singer or baseball player or attempted to become the President. Life’s not always easy. Sometiimes its very difficult. I really believe Ken would treat you no differently than he would treat a famous baseball player or even the President. He’d offer the same warmth, the same attention to detail, and receive the same love and respect in return.
The lesson for me, the rest of us, and for bartenders everywhere, is that simply being a monetarily successful businessman is never an end unto itself. It is a way of life, one we best understand is not necessarily hurried or dismissive or McDonald’s like. While it is important to do things well, it is also important to enjoy doing things well. This is where the rubber meets the road and where this one small businessman succeeded in being better than just “good.” Ken enjoyed what he did and he enjoyed the people he did it with. In turn, they enjoyed him and returned to his place of business often. He would be an example to other bar managers and bar tenders that he touched on what it means to be great at what you do. It is not always measured in monetary profits or the tip jar at the end of the night. It is about attitude and character, the kind that goes with you to the grave and satisfies any arguments you, yourself and you might have there. It is the kind of stuff that lives on in the hearts and minds of others you have touched, even if only for a brief time in the measure of our own lives.
Dealing with Ken was a nice way to end my day. No wonder folks kept wanting to come back to wherever he was. The place just wouldn’t be the same on days when he wasn’t working. It isn’t now. A smile and handshake from him was as good and refreshing as any of the expertly crafted drinks he served. I like his staff because, in part, they are a reflection of him offering their own styles, but demonstrating his warmth and enthusiasm. Staff almost always reflects management. Ken’s crew went with him where ever he went. Now, after his passing, he takes his final journey alone, but I’m sure of one thing. He is in good company.
Some Small Business is Derived from a Failure of Government and Large Businesses
“A Snowball’s Chance in Hell for Small Businesses” - Michael Patrick Murphy 2/23/2010
When corrupt and inept businesses and governments start to fall apart, many folks turn to running their own businesses. As they get laid off or simply worn out by the antics of the “govnocorporate” world, they think it might be better to become their own bosses. Sometimes it will be born of necessity. Sadly, these folks will still be working for the “high-tax” government over 50 percent of the time—the amount of money they will earn that is turned over to government taxing authorities—not to mention the time lost in dealing with them all and/or paying someone else to deal with them. Then those same authorities will take that money and fund entities that will further frustrate their bottom lines. Their large corporate competition will also use the government as a club against their smaller competition via their powerful lobbies.
There will be many small businesses that fail and some of their owners that long for the carefree 8 hour days “working for the man.” Unfortunately, they may now find those corporate doors are closed to them as these behemoths instead hire the “how highs”—the younger generations that will attempt to support the rest of us as we age. Perhaps the younglings deserve jobs more than we older folks do. Of course age discrimination is illegal, but despite the law, governments and corporations are age discriminatory—just try to prove it in court.
Some large companies simply won’t exist anymore, as in California’s case, where they’ve been driven out for all of the above reasons. California ineptness cost it 836,000 jobs in 2009 according to the states’s officials. Unemployment is almost 13 percent, worse than most other states and every so-called free world country except Spain. These figures don’t represent the millions that live and work under the radar, the underemployed and those not seeking jobs. Another group unaccounted for, are those that work “under the table.” They too, are off the radar and that group is growing by leaps and bounds, much to the frustration of a cash strapped Capitol which thinks it needs to steal their money. This seems to be what always happens when governments like California’s tax so highly. People that can’t afford it, simply refuse to pay. That’s why the government breaches the constitution and simply starts stealing the money from legitimate folks through wage garnishment and other tactics. When people try to dispute the wrongful thefts, they find state phone lines busy. They must write and assume someone that cares will read their correspondence. For similar reasons, the whole market place in the Soviet Union became a “black market.” It operated under the radar. You were either in it, supporting it, or starving to death. California is headed for the same dreadful anarchistic state. All government failures end in anarchy. Those that believe we are coming out of this sometime soon might as well stick their heads back in the sand.
In California, minimum wage laws, the golden key for political wanna be’s seeking high office, keep many people from being hired in the first place and especially from being hired within their skill set. While folks could be taught another job, the cost of education has also risen exponentially in the state.(note: 34 million folks live in the CA, about the same as the whole population of Canada.) California, once the world’s third largest economy is now relegated to 7th or 8th or maybe worse. With the help of the Federal Government it is financially 20% responsible for, it actually has earned the drop in employment. It was not small business capitalism that killed us, it was communism, the idea we could redistribute over 50 percent of our wealth to the government and have it decide how it best be spent or better wasted. Improbably, success in California could somehow show the world how to dig themselves out of the deepest holes. Unfortunately, it may require a collapse first, and I have no doubt that small local businesses, more trusted than our government and giant corporations, will be the ones to light the way. Folks, seeing their unemployment running out, the inflation of the dollar and rising living expenses, will have no choice but to strike out on their own. That means an increase in the entrepreneurial spirit for better or worse. Some may start by collecting cans. Others will invest in bigger enterprises. All will learn what it means to be a small businessman. Those of us still successful in small businesses now are the primers for a brighter future. That’s why you hear the outcry at the Federal level to prime our pumps. The reality—“We don’t need the government’s stinkin’ help! Just get out of our way and watch us roar!”(see “In God We Trust—but that’s about it!” article below)
In God We Trust—but that’s about it!
“A Snowball’s Chance in Hell for Small Businesses” - Michael Patrick Murphy 2/23/2010
The American people are getting tired of being lied to. Government lies. Corporations lie. Everyone seems to lie. At what point do we start to trust anything, even ourselves? If you’re the kind of person that wants to be able to trust someday, then for you, small local businesses are America’s future. The world is changing dramatically and the little guy can be at the forefront. A small business exists right there next to its customer. If a small businessman lies, they have to look their customer in the eye when they do it. If he or she gets mad, they can tell the businessman to his or her face. That’s why you have a much better chance of getting an honest deal from a small local business. If you are dishonest, the locals will run you out of town. Therefore, integrity and character are essential to small businesses. As a small business, you can’t afford to market around dishonesty. Even a really big business like Toyota is finally starting to learn that one. Small Business will essentially be at the forefront of any movement towards trusting big business or government. Let’s all learn from our mistakes.
What Happens in an Inflationary Depression
“Food for Business Planning” - Michael Patrick Murphy 1/12/2010
Few Americans realize that the causes of today’s and tomorrow’s economic woes were completely the fault of our corporate owned government’s meddling in business macro-management. The richest and most powerful men behind the ponzi schemes would profit. They usually do. However, this is not a guarantee to all the rich men on planet earth. Many will succumb to the meddling, especially those that are not quite large enough to benefit directly from the bailouts that protected the largest corporate pensions and CEO benefits. Instead, they will find their companies bankrupt and sold to the highest bidders. All of this is happening despite the fact that the other shoes of credit card debt, commercial property and the collapse of the dollar haven’t even happened yet.
The story of this immoral meddling actually began during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency when the Federal Reserve was unethically and unconstitutionally created. This gave the government the power to print currency beyond its purported assets. Then we had the nationally supported nightmare years of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had perhaps the largest unwarranted ego of any US President. The underpinnings of massive government communism started with his administration, an administration who’s irony was that it was fiercely anti communist before the media. Then there was the 401K and IRA scheme to bail out the stock market in the 70’s which caused most corporately employed Americans to invest their hard earned money back into the corporations. Here Americans were investing in companies and people they knew nothing about in order to beat the inflation created by their government. Indirectly, they were investing out of fear of their own government. Even a child could see that that didn’t make sense, but fear does strange things to people. Nixon also opened the door to China. In buying Chinese goods, not only have we been supporting a brutal communist government, but also giving them the money and technology to build a huge deep water navy. China has paid big bucks to politicians to keep their military buildup out of the news. Americans maintained their standard of living because they could buy cheap Chinese everything and because the government was borrowing from future generations to pay for our current lifestyles. Development was promoted by politicians that took developer campaign money at every level from your local town or city to the big boys in Washington. They are still on the take from China and those developers still standing. Meanwhile, for years Joe Public thought things were just peachy.
The last few years, we’ve started paying the piper. Unemployment, the housing crash, the stock market and banking debacle; these are all just minor symptoms of what I believe is the inevitable financial armageddon of our times.
So what will happen sooner than later depending upon the degree of further government meddling in the economy? What should you consider when making your business financial moves? Read Further
Toyota! You Asked for It, You Got It!
"This isn't your daddy's Toyota!" -Michael Patrick Murphy
When Toyotas first came to America, you were promised a cheap car that wouldn't break down. They pretty much fulfilled that promise. So what if you could die in one more easily? They didn't promise you a long life now, did they?
Today, you get more than you bargained for—or should I say a lot less! Chances are that Toyotas are the "Found On Road Dead" car of the next decade; a title who's initials, F-O-R-D, used to represent the Ford Motor Company.
Today, like most large corporations, Toyota is the over promising and under delivering car of the century. With recalls up the yin-yang and astronomical repair costs, especially on hybrid battery replacements, one realizes that perhaps it is China's turn to try to be the next cheap sturdy car. I'd love to say buy American, but I'd rather tell you to just walk to where you need to go. You'll feel better. Read Further
How Business Works.. Or Not?
"Since you're not doing anything, serve me so I can get something done." -Michael Patrick Murphy
Who are the masters of business? Who are the slaves? On any given day, in any given situation our roles might change. When we become fixated in one role, we can become bored or even angry. In this world with so many opportunities, too many of us can become fixated by the same jobs, or even the same personal activities. At least we feel more capable of changing our personal environments. But our professional world? That's where most of us get stuck.
Changing business fixations is what allows a business to grow and prosper. It is a never ending process that allows for vacations, but a process that must be picked up again when we return. Think about how many times a business owner or manager must address work related issues while on vacation. A manager might say, "I sure wished I'd trained them better, or that was the last thing I expected. Even when we try to make everything consistent, from product to process, the best laid plans of mice and men are often thwarted by none other than life itself. Read Further
by Michael Patrick Murphy, April 10, 2008 Revised 4/11/08
The Small Businessman (SBM) is energetically open to all kinds of ideas from many sources for small and micro business assistance. The SBM's primary competitors are those protected, funded or otherwise assisted by government. However, The Small Businessman likes to make sure you know about them, too. They are relevant to our success!
A friend of mine likes to refer to Plato's allegory that we're not that far out of the cave. In our small business case, there is so much room for improvement that we could go in a myriad of directions to out perform our competitors. One example surfaced recently when I set up a website for a client. I asked, "Why not make vendors feel appreciated?" In the restaurant's case we devoted a page to vendors that told them how much we'd like to hear from them about their products and services. Imagine how many vendors are subjected to scorn from small businesses every day. Knocking on doors is a tough job. Too many businesses treat vendors like a crude interruption to their day to day activities. Vendors never fail to arrive at the worst times. We even discourage them with "no solicitation" warnings. We tend to forget that when we make someone happy, we're lucky if they tell two people. When we upset them, they might tell eight people to go to our competition. After all, who knows your business and your competitors better than your vendors? Why not have vendors work for us rather than for our competition? Why not make them happy promoters of our business? Both vendors and customers could contact the chef via email addressed to "email@example.com." How special is that? There are so many ways we can compete in the market place, yet too many of us are stuck in common ruts thinking inside a box. I say, "Leave that box to the corporate world where many vendors don't even attempt to knock on doors."
by Michael Patrick Murphy, March 26, 2008
I don't want to fall into the whining habit many of we small business folks fall into when it comes to the topic of government. Unless you plan to take action, whining can become such an obsession that it eats up too much time and energy. I spend a lot of time fighting city hall on our behalf, but that is in part a passionate hobby that I enjoy and then again, as a writer, I do take action. I even went so far as to run for the California State Assembly in 2006. It cost me a lot of money to go up against the virtual wall placed in front of me by the political competition. Hopefully the lessons learned will be remembered. Never the less, the reality is that we do face competition from taxpayer funded government programs.
This page was last updated on 9/7/09