Whitney Houston Entrepreneur

Whitney Houston Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Whitney Houston EntrepreneurAs many of us mourn the passing of Whitney Houston, tons of memorials and tributes have popped up across the internet. I decided I wanted to pay tribute to her as well, especially since I couldn’t find anything remembering her for being business savvy.

Whitney Houston was a major role model for me when I was entering my teenage years and I will always remember her from that time. She has a lasting legacy through her daughter Bobbi Kristina, her godson Nick as well as her works as an entertainer, philanthropist and mentor.

My tribute to Ms. Houston is in recognition of what she did as an entrepreneur (and professional) and what the rest of us can learn from her example.

Concentrate on your strengths

Whitney was infamously mocked for her dancing skills during the early part of her career. In a 1991 interview with Ebony magazine, she acknowledged her dedication to singing since that’s what she was good at. She did not take dancing seriously – that’s not what people loved about her. She honed that craft to win 415 awards (562 award nominations) in her career from a diverse body of organizations including the top experts in her field.

Lesson: Become great at what you do by practicing; investing in your development with classes, coaches, even developing others; practicing; challenging your strengths; practicing; listening to good advisers; and practicing.

Diversify your income streams

Whitney Houston has earned more awards than any female singer has ever received. She sold over 200 million records and albums internationally, an extraordinary achievement especially for an African-American artist. That said, singing was not her only talent and was not the only way she earned income. Unlike what has been commonly reported, she co-wrote and published some of her music under her publishing company Nippy Music Inc (later WhitNip Publishing, Inc). Songs published under this name include Count On Me, Something in Common, Queen of the Night, Like I Never Left You, and others. As these songs have sold during the years, they have earned residual income for her (and now her estate).

So many are aware of her transition into acting. Her movies The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife earned combined box office revenues of $540.5 million worldwide.  Some of the success, I believe, was because she used her voice in two of these movies (The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack is still the best-selling gospel album ever made). What is not as widely acknowledged was the role she took on as a movie producer by delivering movies she thought would be good for little girls to see.  In addition to her version of Cinderella, the Cheetah Girl and Princess Diaries franchises (all associated with Disney) were co-produced or executive produced by her company Brownhouse Productions, usually in association with Debra Martin Chase. The Princess Diaries alone earned over $300 million in box office revenue worldwide. She recently picked up the producer and actress bug for a remake of the ’70s classic Sparkle which wrapped around Thanksgiving 2011 and is scheduled for release in August 2012.

Lesson: Fill in service gaps you believe exist in your market. Open your business portfolio to include more areas of your value chain or other products/services complementary to your strongest talent. Look for ways to incur residual income such as licensing your work to others.

Do what works for you

When Ms. Houston began tipping over to superstar status, she began losing fans in the R&B market… she was even booed at the Soul Train Awards in 1989. Many accused her of not sounding soulful enough on her records. In the December 1990 issue of Essence magazine, she acknowledged making a business decision to pursue a mainstream pop sound, a sound she felt would provide longevity to her career. Her name and her history-making music will stand the test of time because she didn’t bow to pressure from others.

Lesson: Decide on a path to share your talent and stay true to your decision. There will be naysayers especially when you go against the grain and do the unexpected, but if you twist and turn with what everyone else says about what your work should look like, your work will lose the essence of what works best for it – you.


Early in her career, Whitney gave a voice to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. She later set up the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children to give and raise funds for children all over the world. She helped raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, United Negro College Fund, Red Cross and many others throughout her career.  Her contribution of singing helped to raise $300,000 for the Children’s Defense Fund in one night. I believe her contributions to charity helped her career last as long as it did.

Lesson: A basic tenet for successful entrepreneurs has been to give. Share your time, talent and/or money with organizations who work on behalf of others. There are so many benefits of doing this – in the end, it helps us all have a better world than we would without your contributions.

Whitney Houston is a testament of how someone can become the best in the world at owning her talent and serves as a reminder to those watching that she was still human. The most gifted people can go through the greatest personal struggles especially when they have been given superhuman status. At the end of the day, if we don’t take care of our bodies, we will not be able to share our talents with the world for very long.

Here’s a song I appreciate now more than ever before. It’s inspiring for entrepreneurs building our businesses, one day at a time.



5 Best TV Shows Entrepreneurs Must See in 2012

It’s difficult to take time to watch television while running and growing a business, but doing so can be a quick way to gain inspiration and tools. Entrepreneurs are represented in so many ways on television these days. From catering, cupcake baking, and restaurants to fishing, house flipping, and tech startups, there are many TV shows you can tune into for inspiration within your specific industry. For more general business inspiration, you can watch any TV show on CNBC, MSNBC or Bloomberg TV to learn something new which can take your business to another level. That said, there are only a few shows that I believe are great at giving multiple, awesome general business lessons while telling a great story all within one hour.

Below are 5 TV shows that I have enjoyed and learned great lessons from, listed in alphabetical order.

1. The Apprentice on NBC

In what has become a veteran of mainstream business TV shows, The Apprentice (along with its sister TV show Celebrity Apprentice) has proven to be more than about watching Donald Trump choose one person to win a job or a major donation (while firing the rest). Each week, you can learn lessons about:

  • Project Management
  • Team relations
  • Communication
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Presenting to executive management of a potential customer
  • How to answer the inevitable question “why you?” when it comes to being chosen for a new job/contract or retained for a current one

A new season of Celebrity Apprentice will begin airing on Sunday, February 19 at 9 pm EST.

If you miss it when it airs, you can catch full episodes online.
2. Oprah’s Master Class on OWN

The stories highlighted by this TV show are great for young entrepreneurs to glean the challenges and successes people can have by continuing to pursue their crafts even through perceived failure. Past entrepreneurs highlighted include Ted Turner, Lorne Michaels, Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z), Oprah Winfrey and many others. Lessons shared have included:

  • Be true to what you want to do and what you don’t want to do
  • Be open to opportunities that push you beyond your current circumstances
  • Learn from your failures and get back up from them
  • How to know when it’s time to let go and move on

Oprah’s Master Class airs on Sundays at  10 pm EST. Some episodes and clips are available online, and you can read summaries of each episode as well.

3. Shark Tank on ABC

TV show ABC's The Shark Tank

Image: ABC

If you wanted to know what is essential to capture in your pitch/ 30-second sell/ business plan to gain buy-in from outside parties – this is the best TV show to watch. You can learn from real life pitches made by several entrepreneurs to potential investors and partners Barbara Cocoran, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec and new Shark Lori Greiner. The Sharks are uber-successful entrepreneurs who decide if they will invest their personal funds in a company according to the presentations given in each episode. From this show you can learn a lot including:

  • What goes into a good business pitch
  • What you should look for in potential investors, partners and advisers
  • Questions you should have answers to before you share your ideas with others
  • The level of innovation happening in this country today

Shark Tank airs on Fridays at 8 pm EST. You can watch full episodes online, and read recaps of each pitch.

Check out episodes from the Canadian version of the show Dragon’s Den – you’ll see some familiar Dragons.

4. Tabatha Takes Over on Bravo

TV Show Tabatha Takes Over on Bravo

Image: tabathacoffey.com

Yes there’s more to Bravo than it’s Real Housewives franchise and similar TV shows. Tabatha’s Salon Takeover and the new Tabatha Takes Over are real gems for entrepreneurs who need some lessons in employee relations, customer service, marketing and much, much more. Tabatha Coffey has a knack for keeping it real with entrepreneurs – showing them the reality of what is going on in their businesses with footage from a hidden camera, speaking to entrepreneurs about the state of their companies and separately speaking to employees to get their sense of what is going on with business, giving entrepreneurs strong feedback on what they can do to strengthen the company and finally checking on them several weeks later to see if anything stuck. Although the show provides a cosmetic makeover for the place of business it really is more about the internal makeover that takes place with the business owners and their teams.

From this TV show, you can learn:

  • How the actions and attitude of a leader (you) affect the actions and attitudes of his or her (your) team and customers’ perspectives
  • How to assess if your business truly reflects the brand you want it to
  • Ways to partner with members of your business community to attract more customers
  • How a clean, ordered work environment (cosmetic and systemic) affects team morale and ambition

Tabatha Takes Over airs on Tuesdays at 10 pm EST. You can watch clips online and read her behind-the-scenes commentary for different business cases.

P.S. This is a good one for consumers to watch so you can understand the level of customer service you SHOULD receive from your vendors.

5. Undercover Boss on CBS

TV show Undercover Boss on CBS

Image: Littlejohn/CBS

One of the best ways to understand different challenges within your organization is to infiltrate the system and make observations while doing the work. The premise of this TV show is a CEO joins the regular, typically customer-facing, workforce in his or her organization in a disguise so everyone will act as they normally do without the pressure of being watched by a senior manager. These CEOs see first hand what works and what does not work in their companies. By the end of their journey, they meet with their executive teams to share their observations and implement system-wide changes. They reward good employees they meet along the way and chastise employees that do not exemplify company values. Ultimately it is an experience in coming down to Earth and really experiencing the company as a person who usually represents the company to end users.

Lessons you may embrace from watching Undercover Boss include:

  • How employees’ perception of senior management’s appreciation of them can affect customer service
  • The importance of clear communication throughout the organization so everyone understands company and employee expectations
  • How to understand whether resources exist to provide the customer service you expect your customers to receive
  • What connecting with your employees can do for company morale

New episodes of Undercover Boss begin airing on Friday, February 17 at 8 pm EST. You can watch full episodes online anytime.

What TV shows do you watch for inspiration and lessons in business? Share in the comments below.

Community Investing

3 Communities To Invest In As An Entrepreneur

Community InvestingThis week, many of us reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and the contributions he made to the world. His fight for the empowerment of a community has inspired societies across the world to do the same for their own.

The communities of your business location, your industry peers and even other entrepreneurs would greatly benefit from your contributions, particularly financial. Strategically investing in these communities can benefit your company and those around you.

Sponsor Community Organizations

Sponsoring major events for professionals would support a pipeline of potential partners and company employees. Adopting a school, sports team or youth club that relates to your interests and what your company offers exposes your company to young people and their parents. There are many organizations who would gladly accept your donations. Sponsorship is recognized as a viable form of marketing and actually enlists other individuals who will spread the word about your company for free. It’s also a tax write-off when you do it for a 501(c)3 organization.

Become a Conference Partner

Investing in conferences that target your industry or function will expose your business to many potential partners, employees and customers. Additionally your participation may be helpful for your own professional development and those of your employees. You can share your status as an expert and attract more customers by participating as a conference speaker.

Invest in Entrepreneurs

Motivating other entrepreneurs may increase your competition but it encourages innovation which helps everybody. One of the biggest barriers to entrepreneurship is lack of capital. A great way entrepreneurs can contribute to other entrepreneurs financially is by investing capital through crowdfunding and angel investing. The following organizations help you invest with minimal collateral damage:

Kiva.org – a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs in developing countries with microfinance loans. You can provide a minimum of $25 that goes towards funding a requested business loan and is repaid with no additional return for you. Kiva reports a 98.9% repayment rate for their loans. Once repaid, your money can be invested in another loan, cashed out or donated to Kiva.

Benefits: You contribute to global entrepreneurship, can share the importance of that to you with your stakeholders (especially if it is important to them) and have the opportunity to write-off any donations.

KickStarter.com – support creatives by contributing to their campaigns and receiving a reward in the form of anything from public recognition to a pre-order of their offer. Minimal pledge is $1. If a project is not completely funded, your pledge is cancelled.

Benefits: Projects are vetted before they are presented for fundraising on the site yet you can contribute to important innovation for your industry, function or lifestyle. Additionally you will receive a sample, promotional item or other reward for contributing to the project by a date specified in advance which holds owners accountable to getting it done.

Prosper.com – a peer-to-peer lending marketplace that promotes loan requests for entrepreneurial and personal projects. You can invest a minimum of $25 into a loan of your choosing. Borrowers are rated according to credit scores and a proprietary score from Prosper. You should develop specific criteria before you invest in a loan to ensure optimal returns.

Benefits: This forum presents a good way to diversify your investing and make a return. It can act as a foray into larger investments by getting your feet wet for determining viable deals.

As an entrepreneur you are a leader in your community. Take the time to give and you will receive more benefits that what is listed here.

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the comments below, share other ways you have contributed to your community and share what return you received in your business as a result.

2012 Goals

Cardinal Rules 2012 Goals

2012 Goals


First of all – Happy New Year!

So, sorry I have been MIA for so long. I spent last year raising my boys full-time, selling my home, enjoying personal freedom, and pursuing other projects including looking for a job and freelance writing. I learned a lot about:

  • what to do and what not to do in parenting my boys
  • SEO
  • getting a house sold!
  • blogging best practices
  • being present and savoring the moment
  • different ways that people are pursuing income and gaining freedom in their lives that I wouldn’t have though possible two years ago (yes, I read The 4 Hour Work Week)
  • being there for my friends and family like never before
  • unique ideas so many of us offer the world including everything from local restaurant concepts to unique flavors of coffee in different parts of the country
  • running – it can be so exhilarating form of exercise

Cardinal Rules always stayed at the forefront of my mind, I just didn’t know what my next moves would be from a content perspective. I believed there already existed a lot of evergreen content and wanted to change the format a bit. Meanwhile in 2011, I changed its location (if you’re getting this on RSS, the new location is www.cardinalruleschallenge.com), gave it a new look and added new methods of engagement including a Twitter profile and Facebook fan page. Also, I developed the concept of the Cardinal Rules Challenge – a weekly newsletter that will be sent with challenges for entrepreneurs can use to push themselves and their companies on to their next level.

Ultimately, I realized Cardinal Rules presents the perfect forum to do everything I love to do.  It encompasses so much I want to do with my career – entrepreneurship, sharing, teaching, writing, product management, product development, and so on.

The S.M.A.R.T. 2012 goals for Cardinal Rules include:

  1. Release the free e-course “Cardinal Rules For Owning a Business” by January 30, 2012.
  2. Begin sending the Cardinal Rules Challenge by February 6, 2012.
  3. Have 500 email subscribers, 3,000 Twitter followers and 3,000 Facebook fans by July 31, 2012.
  4. Create 2 premium information products by October 30, 2012.
  5. Create a premium membership for Cardinal Rules by December 25, 2012.

There’s more that I will do but those are the major milestones I plan to accomplish this year. With all the information I learned last year, it’s time for me to DO.

What I truly hope to accomplish in 2012 is to support many more people in pursuing entrepreneurship as a viable way to make a living. It can be the most exhilarating and freeing activity that anyone can pursue regardless of age, gender, race, education or experience. It can also create the most stress you may ever experience (outside of parenthood).

I want Cardinal Rules to be a place where entrepreneurs can relieve some of that stress. By considering it a sanctuary where you can come to get some business tips and advice, and ultimately connect and network with other entrepreneurs who have your back. We are all in this together and the world is better for each of us when we have a few cheerleaders motivating us along the way.

I’m still updating the site but I wanted to share this quick post given the turn of the new year. I will begin posting regularly by the release of the free e-course.

Let me know one of your major milestones in the comments below and on Facebook.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Partner scene from The Social Network

Before Your Business Partnership Goes Bad

Partner scene from The Social Network
Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker and Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”.


I saw the latest blockbuster The Social Network this week and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Regardless of the accuracy of the portrayal of Facebook’s origins, there were lessons to be learned for any entrepreneur looking to make a buck with anyone else – friend or foe.  Fact is: Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin were business partners that severed their relationship and it wasn’t amicable. Ultimately, lawyers had to become involved and Mark Zuckerberg settled. This can be the most expensive route to resolve a business dispute yet tends to be a route taken time and time again. Continue reading