Never engage even the best nonprofit client without one

Never engage even the best nonprofit client without one

Contracts: you can’t live with ‘em, you can’t live without ‘em.

Back in my fundraising paycheck life, I had a major real estate developer as a donor. On one visit, I caught him right after a protracted negotiation for a significant project. He said (to paraphrase)

“Contracts are funny things. If everything’s going great, nobody cares about the contract. When things are bad, everyone hates the contract! Still, you gotta have a contract.”

Yes, still, you gotta have a contract.

Could you do work without one? Sure. Would I recommend it? No way! There are at least seven reasons for you to have a contract on your next nonprofit consulting job:

  1. It could be required by law. In fundraising in particular, more than 30 US states have laws requiring contract between nonprofits and fundraising consultants. Does yours?
  2. It tells everyone you are a professional. Nothing says “I’m real” than a contract. A contract moves your work (in the eyes of your client) from a hobby to a business.
  3. It removes any confusion that you may be volunteering your services. This is important to clarify in a sector where volunteering is part of the labor force. With a contract up front, there’s no confusion at the end of a job when you present your client with a bill.
  4. It makes you take your work more seriously. “I have a contract to fulfill” maybe what gets your attention to get the job done.
  5. It can make you look good. If you say in your contract, for example, “only three re-writes,” you look great if you “make an exception” and give them four or five.
  6. It prevents abuse of your time. A contract defines exactly what your job is. Like nonprofits can suffer “mission creep,” you can suffer “job creep,” if what you are expected to do is not well defined in the contract.
  7. It draws a definite end date. The best contracts end on a specific date. It’s not to say you can’t extend them, but a clear date gives you (and your client) the means to rethink your relationship. After all, you may need an “out” if you don’t like working with a client.

What’s a good contract look like? This is where I’m going to send you to your attorney. S/he probably has some templates for you to review that are specific to consulting. If you are in fundraising (or even if you are not), many contracts must be filed with the state. That makes them public documents, so you may be able to request a sample from the state agency handling fundraising consultant registration. And while you’re at it (again, if you are a fundraiser) make sure that your contract covers the required points as mandated by the state in which your client resides. At least one state (New York) has a form which must be included in all fundraising counsel and solicitor contracts. Most states put their fundraising counsel or fundraising solicitor contract requirement on the same, or linked website, as the website that addresses nonprofit fundraising registration. Oh, and again for fundraisers, don’t forget to register in that state as a fundraising counsel or solicitor (or whatever they call you), if it is required.

So… should you have a contract? Yeah. Are contracts fun? No. But like my friend and donor said, you gotta have ’em.

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Ten Reasons why Nonprofits Want to Hire You

Ten Reasons why Nonprofits Want to Hire You

Are you an interesting person and fun to be with? Of course!  But that only gets a consultant so far. You need to know why your client wants you. It might just boil down to one of these ten reasons:

  1. Transfer knowledge. Many times, nonprofits are forced to depend on semiskilled labor to perform functions that in the for-profit world would be given to a higher paid expert. These people are either inexperienced, serve once served as volunteers to the organization, or serve functions in business that are similar to what they are being asked to do in a nonprofit, but not the same. Recognizing this, nonprofits will ask consultants to come in and teach the skills necessary to bring their staff up to speed in the expertise they require.
  2. Evaluate. More nonprofits are being asked by funders and government agencies to objectively evaluate their effectiveness in mission programs or internal systems. Your developing an expertise in being able to quantify what the nonprofit up to that point considered unquantifiable will make you a viable resource.
  3. Pinpoint an issue. Given the financial restraints that most nonprofits face, it’s easy to have a minor problem manifests itself in big ways. Being a troubleshooter for nonprofit can be a very valuable service in delivering their mission.
  4. Episodic expertise. It’s incredibly tough for nonprofits to have every expert they require for every circumstance they encounter. Being able to bring you in “on call” can be an extremely valuable service, whether that’s in human resources, accounting, fundraising events or other once in done kind of activities.
  5. Ongoing expertise. For some nonprofits, it’s a better business model to hire consultants who are semi permanent staff. For example, if they’re entering into a campaign that will only last two or three years, they might consider bringing in a campaign manager over that time, rather than hiring a full-time staff member that they might let go after the campaign is complete.
  6. Interim leadership. To their credit, many nonprofits recognize that having a thoughtful hiring process for a permanent position takes time. They may not have the expertise in-house to take over a job on a short-term basis, or they made have somebody in house who is qualified but is a candidate for the position. It’s often better to hire an interim leader in a key position who can lend expertise and put systems in place for long-term betterment of the organization, then to hire quickly and regret the decision quickly.
  7. As a “hatchet man.” Unfortunately, people just don’t like to do the hard tasks that can cause bad interpersonal relationships. Nonprofits are no different. Bringing you into objectively assess the situation and recommend appropriate cuts or changes insulates the staff that survives from long-term repercussions.
  8. Spark things up. It’s easy to burn out very quickly when working with a nonprofit. A great function of the consultant is to offer new ways to look at things, new processes and new enthusiasm to a mission.
  9. Pilot a new program. Introducing a new mission related program to a nonprofit is risky. Hiring you to get it started, work through some of the initial problems and train staff to keep it going reduces the risk and the potential for staff frustration.
  10. Make contacts in the community. You may have valuable connections in the field that the nonprofit can benefit from, whether those are with government agencies, donors and potential donors or other consultants such as yourself. Many nonprofits will hire somebody to help them connect with resources that are out of their network.

Yes, smile. Yes, get engaged with their mission. But in the end, know why you’re there.

Which of these Five Nonprofit Consultants Limiting Beliefs is You?

Which of these Five Nonprofit Consultants Limiting Beliefs is You?

You’re not human if you don’t have limiting beliefs. They’re the voices in the back of your head that say “be careful,” and “don’t go there” protecting us from danger. The same messages, especially when there’s not the physical danger that our internal caution system was created to handle, can stop us from real success. Here’s five that can hold you back from a successful nonprofit consulting career…

Nonprofits have no money. Wrong! “Nonprofit” doesn’t mean that there’s no money. It means there’s no shareholders to get the profits. In some cities, nonprofit hospital and universities are the biggest employers, with budgets in the billions of dollars. Connected to them are thousands of people and their businesses make their living serving the nonprofit community. Nonprofits need the same services as most businesses, plus most need specialty services, such as fundraising and program support. Many of the services that nonprofits require that are equivalent to businesses, such as accounting, have nonprofit specialties.

Nonprofits are corrupt. Unfortunately, nothing gets a bigger headline than a nonprofit scandal. Inappropriate accounting, bad human resources behavior, and misuse of resources, among other issues, occur in business, government and nonprofits. But because nonprofits are held to a higher standard, and because they are intended to serve the broader public, particular attention is given to any misdeeds within the nonprofit sector. What you’ll find is that nearly every nonprofit is aware of their fiduciary and moral obligations and operates appropriately within a code of ethics, whether formal or informal. Plus, if you see bad behavior, as a citizen, you have the right to call that behavior to the attention of your state’s attorney general, who has standing in all nonprofit matters within their jurisdiction.

Nonprofit work is “play,” not serious. Nonprofit work is extremely serious work. Some people might say that it is more important than business because it touches lives directly in ways that very few businesses offered products can do. You also find that nonprofits will work in extreme conditions, that no business would dare consider. Nonprofit workers will do more work than their equivalent for-profit workers and as their consultants, will often expect the same dedication from you.

Nobody will take me seriously if I work with nonprofits. Will you be taken seriously if you show them a paycheck? There’s nothing “un-serious” about working with nonprofit clients. Not only do nonprofit clients pay, but the work you do for them makes a difference in ways that equivalent work for a business will not. How many lives did their client, XYZ widget company, save today?

I don’t understand nonprofits. It’s easy to see why. Nonprofits have their own culture, standards of behavior, and even business processes which are distinctive from either the business or government sectors. Many people who enter nonprofit work do so because they did not want to work in business. This can express itself with an attitude of disdain toward business processes and the people who work in the business sector. Don’t take it personally. As a consultant, even as a consultant who comes with a broad nonprofit background, many in the nonprofit sector will see you as simply another business person trying to make money off them. It’s okay. Your job is to build relationships to break through that barrier. Most will see the value you can bring to their organization. Some never will. Don’t worry about them

I don’t have nonprofit credentials. While specific credentials are very important in many areas that serve nonprofits, and that don’t, for non-state regulated professions, your ability to show results in your work is much more important to your clients than a certificate. For example, the CFRE (certified fund raising executive) is a well-known credential in the nonprofit fundraising world. However, it is not a state regulated certification, such as certain legal or medical skills. So, as long as you are appropriately registered in the state to offer fundraising services (if the state you are working in requires this) your credentialing does not make a difference. Your clients will be more interested in the results they get than whether you have the letters behind your name. That said, the letters are important as a way of showing that you have some confidence in the field. In effect, they are marketing tools.

Is it easy to succeed in consulting to nonprofits? No! But what’s going to get you first is your own limiting beliefs, not reality.


Are you at work, or at work?

Are you at work, or at work?

Okay, I’m going to get a little metaphysical on here, but stick with me because it’s important.

Did you go to work today? So, what so metaphysical about that?

Think about it: did you really “go”? If you went, then where? If you didn’t go someplace, were you at work?

The real question is: is work a place, or is it a definition of time?

For consultants, this is an important question. Because the day you become a consultant, is a day you own your time. And with ownership comes responsibility.

The physical removal from one’s self from home to “go to work” is a very industrial age concept – at most 250 years old, and for most families, four generations ago – a minor blip in human history. Today, most paycheck jobs expect you separate yourself physically from home, which for many, means you also separate yourself mentally. Like a good habit, one (the physical separation) triggers the other (the mental separation) resulting in a reward (your paycheck). Once consulting, unless you buy or rent yourself an office to visit daily, that trigger is gone.

This has a significant implication for your consulting.

Without “work” to go to, work is then only defined by time, not a space. Take it a step further. That time need not all be in one block. In fact, if you examined your paycheck life closely, the time at work probably was not all one block, either. It’s just that the “bumper times” between meetings, checking Facebook or catching up on your weekends with your co-workers, were all folded into your paycheck. As a consultant, you own those times, not your employer. And with that ownership, comes responsibility. It’s still okay to take a 15-minute break for Twitter, now it’s just 15 minutes you don’t get paid for.

Until you focus yourself on the tasks at hand, preferably for a client but even for your broader consulting practice at hand (sales/marketing, billing, etc.), you’re not working.

The problem with having work more connected with time and less with space is that it is easy to cheat. Laundry is a great example. Pop a load in… apply yourself to a client project… the buzzer rings. Move the laundry to the dryer… buzzer rings… take it and fold or hang because wrinkly clothes mean another step: ironing. One cycle, at least two interruptions in your focus, not to mention the errant thought “will it be done soon?” If you had a paycheck job, you wouldn’t be around to do it. You’d do your laundry at night, maybe between another home task, like making dinner. Why not do the same, now?

Makes sense, right?

Maybe. The first person to convince that your work time is too valuable to spend doing the laundry, is you. What’s your incentive? How about money? Consulting leads to a check… laundry leads to… clean laundry. How about your client’s mission? If you do the laundry and take more time completing your project, maybe your client can’t feed as many children? If you get done your client work quickly, maybe you can spend more time with your family?

You can’t blame others for this, either. Even if you just take the afternoon off from your paycheck work to get a job done for a client that you are working for “on the side,” you’re vulnerable to neighbors, friends and family deciding that you’re available for their needs.

Your first step to stop this is growling “I’m working, don’t bother me!” But unless you convince yourself that your time is yours, not theirs, you feel guilty saying “no.”  Once you have yourself onboard, you can gently explain to others that you’re at work, (saying “I’m on deadline” can make it sound more urgent) and that you’ll circle back after “work hours,” whenever you decide that is.

While we’re talking about distractions that erode your time, let’s talk about what maybe the most insidious: the electronics in our lives. This is really where you need to know yourself, and be honest with yourself at the same time.

Social media may come first to mind. Turn off alerts and notices. For many, television is a problem. For others, it’s radio or recorded audio. It’s a fine line. Having background media on can cut some of the feelings of isolation in the day.

Being honest with yourself means actually admitting that while you really like it, watching your favorite game show at 2 PM each afternoon really kills your productivity. It’s quickly goes from being a treat that somehow you figure out how to give yourself daily, into a bad habit that erodes your ability to work with clients. Better to use that show as a motivation to make enough to invest in DVR (digital video recording) service.

Related, and just as essential, is knowing yourself. Brain science will tell us that the reason you find the background noise of talk radio distracting while you work (if you do), is that it uses the same brain pathways as the work you are trying to accomplish. Yet despite this information, it can take a lot of self-discipline to push the “off” button!

All of this sounds simple on paper, I know. The key, in my observation, is to know the value of your time and be persistent with yourself and others in protecting it. Sooner-than-later, you’ll develop a good habit.

So, did you go to work today? If you did, did you get anything done?

5 New Writing Tips to Help Nonprofit Clients Read

5 New Writing Tips to Help Nonprofit Clients Read

Ever want to look deep into the eyes of a nonprofit client and ask “did you read what I sent?”

What’s the reply? “Are you kidding? Who has time?”

It wasn’t meant to be hurtful, but as you reflect on the time you put into that website, or brochure, or whatever it was you wrote, it kind of stings.

Maybe you didn’t write for the new way your client reads.

From the invention of movable print type in the 1500s, to just a few years ago, reading on paper was the standard. It was portable, cheap and  given the right ink and size of print, it was easy for our eyes to see the words.

But among all the changes spurred by the rise of computer technology, big and small, maybe one of the most fundamental also the most subtle: how we read. We read differently on screen than we do on paper.

It makes sense when you think of it. Have you noticed your energy level drop when you read on a screen? It’s tiring. The imperceptible flicker, screen glare, lighting, distance from your eyes, size and type of the font, and the quality of the computer screen quietly sap your mental strength.

There’s so much of a difference that inventors of “e-reader” devices created “electronic ink” to emulate the paper experience – at least as close as they can.

Perversely, what’s more, is that electronic information unwittingly opened a floodgate of information at the click of a mouse. Now you have more to read, that’s harder to read!

What does all of this mean to you, the nonprofit consultant?

To get clients to read about you, you need to change how you write. Here’s 5 hints:

1) Long paragraphs? Out. Bullets? In.

2) Complex sentences? Out. Simple sentences? In.

3) Formal sounding? Out. Informal sounding? In.

4) Serif fonts? Out. San-serif Fonts? In.

5) Plain text? Out. Bold and highlights? In.

The idea is that your reader needs to feel that the content is accessible. Part of your making your writing accessible is planning for your client to read your message twice.

“But won’t that take more time?” you astutely ask.

Well, yes, but…

  • The first pass is skimming to see if what you’re writing is important.
  • The second pass is a deeper read for the content.

By using the Bullets, Simple, Informal, San-Serif, Bold and Highlight techniques, you make the first pass much easier to read, helping your reader decide that your message is important. Anld what hasn’t changed in the paper to computer transition is that people want to read what’s important. They just have a hard time filtering out what’s not. That’s why you make your full piece worthwhile to read.

So, time to write for your readers in their new reading mode – and of course, read their great replies in however they send them to you!

Have a Great Nonprofit Day!

…Matt

You’ll never make money from a nonprofit if you’re this

You’ll never make money from a nonprofit if you’re this.

If you’re a commodity, then from your client’s point of view, it really doesn’t matter who she or he goes to. You’re sugar. And when you get down to it, whether it’s the store brand or a “premium” brand, sugar is sugar is sugar. To their taste, they’re both as sweet.

Don’t feel bad. At some level, we’re all commodities – in a business sense, that is. You could probably name at least a few people or businesses that do what you do for nonprofits. Most business can. That’s just competition, but it doesn’t mean you’re a commodity. What’s the best way you can tell if you’re a commodity? You compete on price, alone.

Maybe the best example of an industry that knows it’s commoditized is car insurance. Just watch their commercials. They know that in the end, insurance is pretty much all of the same. While the average consumer really doesn’t know what “good” insurance is, they know is what a good price is (or so they think.) Insurance companies know this, too, and they know that competing on price alone is a death-spiral to insolvency.

What a commodity to do? Maybe give a nod to price, just to assure their customers, but then double down on perception. Today you could buy the lizard, tomorrow go with the flo, and next week enroll at insurance U.  When all you have to offer is price, you have to make yourself stand out in the minds of your customers, even if how you stand out is meaningless.

The good news is that while we know that our nonprofit clients are price sensitive, you don’t need to compete solely on price. If you do, you’ll end up miserable, and they’ll get a poor product from you or the person who undercut you to work for nothing. You have an obligation to yourself, and to them, to show them the real difference between you and your competition. You need to prove that price alone isn’t a reason to buy.

I’m sure you’re relieved to discover that this doesn’t mean making up fictional characters or pretend to sell boxes of something that can’t be boxed, or walking through the hallowed halls of an non-existant school. You offer a real difference between what you sell and what your competition does. You offer a service in a special way, with results that are as unique as you, and them. Show samples. Show results. Show you understand their mission almost as well as they do.

If you prove your difference, can you charge the stars and the moon for what you offer? Probably not. Can you get a fair price? Yeah, you can.

So before you bury your sorrow in a sack of sweets, remember you are only a commodity if you don’t let your clients know you aren’t… and they’ll be happy to know that there’s a real difference!

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Today’s tip was great, but to really move you, your business and your dreams ahead, you need more than a great idea. You need a coordinated strategy, and a mentor to help you make it all happen.

Take the next step, right now. Schedule a free 30 minute strategy session. Let’s talk about a custom plan, using proven methods, tailored to you, so you can Free Your Dreams, for Good!

Have a great consulting day!

 

        Matt Hugg

 

 

4 Ways To Be A Successful Nonprofit Consultant

4 Ways To Be A Successful Nonprofit Consultant

Nonprofit consulting is a tough business. While there’s no statistics specifically on the business survival rates of nonprofit consultants, I know a lot of people who claim that they were “consulting between jobs.” The simple truth might be that they couldn’t find enough clients to pay their bills.

What can you do so you’re not looking wistfully back on your foray into consulting from a future corporate cubical?

  • Preparation. Preparation is key. We’re talking about business preparation, and personal preparation. You need to be emotionally ready for your business as much as professionally organized to carry it out.
  • Marketing. In my opinion, too many consultants simply do not market themselves either enough, in the right ways, or at all. People like to do “what they do,” their specialty. Attracting clients so they can carry out their specialty is inconvenient, scary, boring…
  • “Grit.” A lot has been written about “grit” lately (see “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth). It’s a real thing. I can cite circumstances where someone has the business equivalent of a hangnail and gives up, and others who suffer indignities that would wear down the most stalwart, yet persevere.
  • And more than a bit of luck. Luck is grossly underrated. It starts at birth and continues throughout life. In Texas right now, there’s a housing products company retired regional manager who is a descendant of the Washington family.

(See: http://www.newsweek.com/americas-lost-monarchy-man-who-would-be-king-92243)

If he was lucky, Washington would have accepted the offer to be King of the United States, this man would have been his successor. King or corporate manager? A matter of luck. Can you “make your luck?” Maybe. You can certainly position yourself so that when luck occurs, you can take advantage of it. You can also decide that when luck runs against you, to not be defeated by it. Either way, many (most?) circumstances you cannot control. You can just try to be ready.

If anything above make you pause, good! Best to consider it now than after investing a lot of hard work, money and reputation into a challenge you didn’t welcome or wasn’t ready for. If it motivates you, all the better! Then maybe you’re ready for nonprofit consulting, and nonprofit consulting is ready for you!

They volunteer for them. How about for you?

They volunteer for them. How about for you?

If you’re a nonprofit consultant, you probably worked with, or at least had some contact with volunteers. Volunteers are one of the great advantages of the nonprofit sector. A volunteer does something that otherwise a business would need to pay for! That’s cool for them.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could have volunteers, too?

Well, family child labor aside (yeah, I was one of those “volunteers” in my dad’s drugstore for years), it’s hard to imagine a situation where you’d get someone to volunteer for you. Even today it’s considered unethical for interns to go without pay.

Still, you can have volunteers, and they’ll be highly qualified and get you business, too.

It’s called your network.

It’s not too hard to develop your personal and professional cadre of volunteers who will promote your work to tens, if not hundred of  people who can buy your nonprofit consulting services.

Here’s five steps to get you started:

1) A firm grasp on exactly what you do. What, like you don’t know what you do? You probably have an idea in your own mind, but can you succinctly describe it to others? That might mean picking and choosing a few specific examples of what you’re great at doing, or what you want to do more. Are you a special event specialist? Are you the diva of databases? Whatever it is, make sure that someone knows, and don’t assume they “get it.” come up with some examples.

2) The second step? Tell them. Be intentional. Your business, your income, is too important to be casual. And never assume that someone already knows, especially if you haven’t seen them for a while.

3) Third? Ask them to tell someone else. You might think that you don’t need to be so forward. After all, if they know what you do, and see some reason to let someone know about it, wouldn’t they? You’d hope so. But if you tell they you’d be grateful for helping spread the word about your work, you increase the chances that they’ll remember when the opportunity comes up.

4) Volunteer to be their volunteer. Never leave a meeting where you ask someone to help you without asking what you can do for them. Your asking will be a pleasant surprise, and they might not come up with anything. yet they’ll remember you as someone who asked.

5) Last? Follow up. Like any good volunteer program, make a list of your volunteers. And touch base with your volunteers once in a while – just remind them that you’re there and still referable, give them the results (and thanks) for their helping you, and report back on your volunteering for them.

That’s it. Come up with how you describe your work. Tell someone. And (and this part is huge) ask them to tell someone else. Volunteer to help them. Follow up. They are now officially your volunteer. Maybe you officially deputize them by giving them a lapel pin with your logo on it, or at least pay for their coffee!

See, volunteers, even for you.

Nonprofit consulting is all about one word

Can you sum up your nonprofit consulting business in a word? No? Okay. How about two, three, four or five?

In other words, what’s your brand? What do clients think when your name comes up, they see you on the street or you walk in the door?

Just like the nonprofits you serve, you have a brand whether you like it or not.

And by the way, I’m not talking about your logo, or the color of your folders or design of your website… but they’re all part of your brand. They help mold that impression, but they are not the impression, alone.

Friendly? Efficient? Helpful?

Dour? Angry? Tough?

Your brand isn’t a logo or a sound. It’s the sum of everything you do.

How you answer the phone, how you interact with clients, the work product you deliver, how you deliver your work product, your use (or not) of technology, how you dress when you see clients, how you smell (yes, it’s true), your hairstyle, your age, and so much more: they’re all part of your brand.

Can you control your brand? Sure. You can control just about every aspect of your brand. On that list, the only one that you can’t is age, but if you’re in good shape or visit a good surgeon (not that I would recommend it!) you can adjust that impression, too.

Yet so few of us, yes, even nonprofit consultants, consciously and intentionally modify their brand beyond the colors of their website and maybe getting a logo.

Think about the difference your brand makes when you see a client. I have a friend who simply feels more comfortable in a tie. Yes, he’s in finance, where ties are expected. He does a lot of work with larger nonprofits. He feels, and has some anecdotal evidence to back this up, that a tie and a good suit give his clients confidence in his work. Ties are his brand, and everyone knows it. His entire ensemble, his haircut and how he speaks is his brand. It helps that he’s a really good, trustworthy guy, too. (But maybe I’m influenced by his brand?)

When was the last time you stood back and looked at your brand? Is it attracting the kind of nonprofits you want as clients?

 

Is your pricing wrong for the right nonprofit clients?

Is your pricing wrong for the right nonprofit clients?

You might not think that Neiman Marcus and Walmart are very similar, but they both know exactly what keeps them in business.  

Neiman Marcus is high end, high touch and high price. Customer service? They’re the leader. They sell “apparel,” not “clothing.” Of course, you pay for it, and you expect to.

Walmart? Low end, no touch, low price. Customer service? Where? They definitely sell clothing, that prices your local thrift store may not beat.

Walmart does not attempt to match the level of service that Neiman Marcus provides, and Neiman Marcus would hardly consider offering the quality of Walmart clothing. And each makes a lot of money being consistent to its position in the market.

How about you?

As a consultant to nonprofits, are you offering Neiman Marcus service at a Walmart price?  

Don’t be embarrassed. A lot of nonprofit consultants do. We fall into the myth that nonprofits are poor, and they can’t “afford” your service. While no organization, business, government or nonprofit can spend as much as they’d like on everything they want, few are so poor that if they really want or need something, they can’t adjust their finances to get it. Or, as a boss of mine used to say “show me your budget and I’ll show you your priorities.”

Sorry to tell you this, but it’s not their fault. You need to adjust your priorities, not them. You need to make it a priority to know your client, their needs, and the importance, to them, of what you offer.

There’s no shame in being Walmart, really. Would you be ashamed to be one of the biggest companies in the world? Clearly, they’ve tuned into a clientèle that appreciates their market position. So has Neiman Marcus, for that matter. Each is smart enough to know what sells shirts, jackets, socks and pants, and there’s no way that either could make money emulating the other.

The lesson here? Know your client, and deliver what they want, in quality, price, and service. Is that what you do?