Escape from Retail Jail: A Copywriter’s Tale

expert Copywriter

People sometimes ask me how I became an expert at copywriting. My answer is always the same; I smirk a little and say “I decided to become one.” Naturally, the story is more involved than that, but that decision — followed by commitment — is the crux of the it.

I had the opportunity to explore this decision and how it impacted my life on Episode 7 of Jason Leister’s Incomparable Expert Podcast. This was a special treat for me because of the massive respect and admiration I have for Jason. (If there’s was an incomparable individual on the call, Jason was him.)

The conversation was very raw. Jason didn’t tell me what he was going to ask, and I’m not sure he stuck to any kind of prearranged series of questions or topics, either.

So we were all over the map, talking about

  • the fact that your ideal customers probably have characteristics similar to the average serial killer – and what it’s going to take to attract and keep them
  • what “providing value” really means
  • Jason’s patent-pending “village model of evolution” and why doing business in the vast expanse of the internet is reverting, in some ways, to the old neighborhood structure
  • when content creation is just plain stupid
  • just how elastic price is — and how to start banishing the notion that you have to work harder to be worthy of making more money from your mind

One of the big takeaways is the magical power of “showing up.” I realize that one of the main reasons I reached any level of success is because I decided to keep going. Even if you’re not very talented, there’s a good chance you’ll find your status elevated simply because you consistently came to work.

Jason said it well: “Anybody with a heartbeat COULD be consistent. But it’s rare, it’s as rare as gold.”

I’ll testify to that.

Steve Lahey said it was my best interview yet…

Steve Lahey tweets Copywriter

…and I’d love you to have check it out on the Incomparable Expert site.



Strategic Truth-Telling

The world is full of phonies, deceivers and cheats. In the arenas of advertisers and salespeople, this seems to be especially true.

Empty promises, bogus guarantees and plain ol’ swindles pervade the marketplace. Most people automatically tune out a large percentage of overt advertisements. No one trusts salespeople; they are often dismissed before they even speak. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) We all know it’s true. That’s just how things are.

In spite of that fact, a profound longing exists inside of each of us: a longing to believe. Gary Bencivenga, one of the few living legends of copywriting, teaches that “Almost everyone in the world… is desperately searching for someone to believe in. Be that person, and you can write your own ticket.” The dishonest climate of the day makes the search for that kind of person difficult. Those found to be trustworthy stand to benefit immensely.

Telling the truth can be used as a powerful business and marketing strategy.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating a Machiavellian view of dealing with truth. 100% honesty is the only way to business. Customers and prospects deeply desire to believe, but they have been forced into skepticism. Only one arrow can pierce the armor of doubt: TRUTH.

How Can Truth-Telling Be Used As a Marketing Strategy?

When we think of establishing our credibility and building trust, we usually picture a long-term process. And it is. Allowing events to progress naturally, it can take months or years to get where you want to be.You should never tell lies or deceive. Customers need to know you’re not going to mislead them or take advantage of them. Don’t settle for marketing that is simply credible. Actually be the company that your customers can trust.

Let’s consider another perspective. Most of my readers market their products and services using direct response methods. What is one defining characteristic of direct response marketers? We do not wait for “events to progress naturally.” We don’t wait for prospects to eventually stumble across our offers and maybe buy something. We take action to cause individuals in our target audience to respond in a particular way.

Strategic truth-telling relies on the same principle.

Rather than relying on chance and (passively) watching trust grow over time, it is possible to inject “moments of truth” into otherwise normal interactions. Build your believability factor actively, purposefully. The “que sera, sera” approach is not a viable strategy.

Let me state emphatically that integrity is not a strategy. It is a way of life.

Now for the good stuff. Let’s discuss 4 specific truth-telling techniques. You will no longer have to hope that you are gaining your audience’s trust. Take action! Implement these steps and gain control of building your believability.

1. The Preemptive Strike

Have you heard the famous story about Claude Hopkins and Schlitz Beer? How one advertising campaign that took Schlitz from 5th place to being in a dead heat with the number one brand in a few months?

Hopkins tells the tale in his book, My Life in Advertising. I won’t repeat it here, but do yourself a favor and look it up. There’s a great lesson to be taken from the narrative. The major take-away from that campaign: be the first company to “tell the facts,” and you gain supremacy in the minds of your customers and prospects.

Instead of just talking about how totally rad your product is, tell the story of why it’s so great. What do you do that makes what you do so impressive?

Is there a way you can use this concept in your own marketing? Think of some aspect of your process, one ingredient you use, or anything that you can tell your audience about that they don’t know. You don’t have to be the only company doing it. You don’t have to be the first company to do it. You just have to be the first to say it. Once you’ve said it, you own it. Anyone else to make similar claims will be seen as a copy cat.

There are so many voices screaming for the attention of the masses. And as much as businesses may think they’re being unique, nearly all advertising sounds the same on the surface. You can stand out by coming at the issue from a different angle. Give meaning to the claims you make about your product, service or brand by using this classic technique of preemption.

2. Full Disclosure

Voluntary vulnerability is startlingly effective at creating credibility. I think there are 3 reasons for that.

Firstly, no one does it. Everyone is too scared to take the risk. Plus, they’ve spent so much time trying to appear to be perfect. They can’t afford to let that illusion disappear. By being one of the rare few that will be open and honest, you position yourself as one of the rare few companies or individuals worth listening to.

Secondly, you show that you care more about the truth than about your image. Your image is how you want to appear. But reality is what really matters.

Thirdly, an emotional element comes into play. Putting yourself or your company in a position of openness is not logical (or at least it doesn’t appear to be so). The result is that the listener is almost forced to react emotionally, not just intellectually.

Everyone loves the inside scoop. Confessions are always a hot ticket. When people feel like you’ve told them something “intimate” you become more of a person than a salesperson. More of a friend. Trust flows easily in that environment.

Show that you have nothing to hide. Prove that you care more about the customer experience than about your image.

This should be an aggressive technique. Remember, we’re thinking of injecting truth deliberately for the purpose of building trust. Maybe it’s as simple as endearing yourself to your email list by telling an embarrassing personal story. You didn’t have to let anyone know about the time you were tricked into climbing into a high school locker, only to find yourself locked in and abandoned (yes, that happened to me).

Make the information interesting, but also find a way to make it relevant.

Also, admit when you’re wrong, when you don’t know the answer, or when you can’t help someone. It always pays off in the long run.

3. Flattery Will Get You Nowhere – Unless It’s Genuine

No one likes a “yes man” or a butt-kisser.

If you want to be believed, have the guts to challenge conventional wisdom or popular opinions. Speak your mind. Be confident and speak authoritatively. You do not have to agree with anyone all the time, even if they’re paying you. In fact, that’ll do more harm than good for all parties involved.

That doesn’t mean be arrogant, or purposely combative. But don’t fall for the line of thinking that says “the more I tell this client how much of a genius he is, the more business I’ll get.” Think more in terms of “the truth will make you free.”

Is it just me, or do people who always have flattering words on their lips seem to be up to no good? Either they don’t have minds of their own, or they’re sycophants. It’s hard to respect either. Don’t be that person or business.

This is less a technique to be used than it is a position to be adhered to. We’re talking about strategy. You want to set yourself up as the person who will tell the truth no matter what it costs. That’s who people will trust. People will believe in you, and that’s how you get to write your own ticket, as Bencivenga says.

I’ve had a client ask tell me that I didn’t have to agree with everything he said. His ideas were great; I wasn’t trying to be obsequious. The point is that my posture was weakened slightly by the appearance that I was just going along with whatever he said. That’s not the place you want to be in.

4. Be A Giver

You should always seek to give more than you take. Provide more value than you charge for.

You should be educating your customers, not just selling to them. Education is one of the most compelling selling tools in existence. But you should give valuable content and actionable information to your audience at least as often as you ask them to buy something from you.

Being a giver is one of the surest ways to become a trusted person or organization. Of course you need to generate revenue. Your customers understand that. But if the only time they hear from you is when you have a sales pitch, you become a nuisance. They feel as if you look at them like dollar signs instead of human beings.

If you want to build credibility, to be the person or company that others believe in, help them get what they want out of life. When you look out for the needs and desires of other people, you begin to operate on a higher level.

Blogs, newsletters and content-rich emails are popular for a reason. We live in the information age. Perhaps telling the truth has never been such an important element of business success.

Be strategic in your execution. Blogs should be focused. Create content so that visitors know what to expect and how to get what they need. Self-promotion is not an effective way to gain trust. Providing info that improves people’s lives is a great way to become a trusted expert.

You can either promote yourself, or do high-quality work that does the promoting for you. Which do you think works better?

Final Thoughts

Most business people you know let their businesses “drift downstream” and hope for the best. My hope is that you are not one of those individuals. There are some things that you can’t control (the weather, for example), but there are nearly always ways to move forward with purpose and vision. Strategic truth-telling is another way to take more control over your life and business.


Death of the Web?

In August 2010, Wired Magazine published an article entitled The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet. The authors describe the dramatic change in the way people use the internet compared to how it’s been used in the past 15 years.

Sure, we’ll always have Web pages,” Chris Anderson says. “We still have postcards and telegrams, don’t we?

But as technology evolves and our use of it adapts, the traditional ways businesses have used the internet to build their brands and expand their influence will no longer be effective to the same degree. What worked yesterday simply will not work tomorrow. You may have noticed that downward trend is already taking impacting your online efforts.

Take a quick mental inventory of the time you’ve spent online lately. What are some of the traits you notice? Avalanches of information, often conflicting other sources. Mediocre content quality. Spam and scams. Wild pitch fests.

And everyone is an “expert,” even if they’re not.

Do you remember high school economics class? One of the first concepts you learn is supply and demand. As the supply of anything increases, its value decreases. On the internet, we’ve pretty much reached the maximum capacity for information demand, but the supply continues to grow exponentially.

So, you see the two causes for the general decline of perceived value of online information: 1) the low quality of the majority of content and 2) the super-abundance and ease of access.

On some level, everyone over the age of 16 senses this deterioration.

Seth Godin, one of the most popular marketing minds in the world recently wrote in his blog:

…Prepare for a continuous erosion of what you pay for digital content, at the same time we’ll see a sticky and upward trend for what you might be charged for the… the scarce or custom.

The world wide web is increasingly becoming a content flea market, so much so that internet giants like Yahoo and AOL are struggling with their current business models.

Don’t misunderstand. Although it seems contradictory, the internet is more important than ever. The rules are changing, and you will have to modify your online initiatives to take full advantage.

Counteract This Trend

To overcome the quality erosion of online information, you absolutely must offer something unique and indisputably valuable. You also have to be able to successfully deliver it to your core audience, the people who can most benefit from what you have to offer. Exclusivity can also protect the perception of high worth around your content.

Unique – It’s cliché, but you have to be yourself. Do the hard work of getting to know yourself and defining your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). Then you have to get the message out.

A large percentage of your peers heavily model themselves and their business after someone they admire. Modeling makes sense – up to a point. But imitation is a problem.

Legendary adman Bruce Barton notes that everyone possesses a “single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature.” Nurture that spark instead of copying someone else’s.

Not only do you have to have a one-of-a-kind persona, you have do conduct business in a way that differs from your competitors.

  • What can you do that others can’t or won’t do?
  • What do your clients experience while working with you that no one else can claim to provide?
  • How can you reach your audience in a way that the competition doesn’t?

Valuable – Everything you do should be impressive. Your personal brand and your reputation depend on showing yourself to be someone who improves the lives of others, not a peddler trying to sell stuff. (People love to buy, but they hate to be sold.)

Value starts with understanding what your target audience wants and needs, then helping them attain those things. A hefty percentage of people online are openly egocentric and their efforts online revolve around trying to suck money out of their customers’ wallets.

Quite a few businesses, entrepreneurs and service providers adhere to an online strategy that emphasizes quantity over quality. The more pages you have on your website, the more visible it becomes to search engines. More articles on more directories put you in front of more potential clients. Blogging every day will keep readers from forgetting about you and help you stay relevant…

That’s a lot of pressure! Placing so much attention to creating large quantities of content makes it difficult to make each piece shine. All of the information you make available to clients and prospects is a reflection of who you are and what you’re about. If your content is highly-visible but poorly crafted or boring, what have you accomplished? Not much more than demonstrating to more people that you’re nothing special. The last thing you want to be is average (or worse).

Search engine optimization (SEO) is another facet of your promotional efforts that can be tricky. Do you write to be attractive to search engines or to have the biggest impact on your readers?

Of course, you want to rank well in search rankings. There are benefits to being on Google’s first page. But, again, if you spend your effort to please the algorithms search engines use (which are constantly changing), you can lose out on opportunities to communicate more powerfully with your audience.

Focus on value. Remember that quality trumps quantity every day of the week

Exclusive – You are unique and valuable. You are not a commodity. Being too available decreases your sense of worth. Exclusivity gives the impression that your content and services are even more valuable. Make potential clients qualify themselves through opt-ins, purchases or other requirements.

Making some of your material available only to qualified individuals heightens the value and significance of that material.

The same is true for making some of your content or products only available in physical copies rather than electronic form. That increases your fulfillment costs, but that is part of what makes going offline work. It feels more expensive. Your prestige factor increases when your readers and listeners know that you’re “putting your money where your mouth is.” (This will also force you to deliver high-level quality because it costs you time and money to produce these items.)


  • books
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • print newsletter (free, paid or bundled with another service or product)
  • columns in print magazines

This distinguishes you from nearly all of your competitors and everyone else online. Rarity increases actual consumption of your content. Your teachings have little effect if they never enter your clients’ brains and get put to use.

Exclusivity builds a sense of belonging and entitlement. The effect creates a formidable emotional and intellectual bond between your audience and you, even while they’re forgetting everyone else.


Six Business Lessons from the Book of Ecclesiastes

The holiday season is upon us!

Many of your business will make a large chunk of your annual revenue between now and the end of the year. And quite a few of us spend a large chunk of our annual income on gifts, decorations, food, and the like.

Paradoxically, we’re told that November and December are also months in which discontentment and depression skyrocket. Add in the rotten state of the economy (what a terrible time to be unemployed or broke), and there are plenty of people feeling gloomy these days.

I had a moment not a couple of weeks ago where I felt as if I knew exactly how King Solomon felt when he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. The invisible part of me exclaimed “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!

But rather than submitting to despair, I found encouragement and inspiration reflecting on this book of wisdom. Now I’d like to distill some of that inspiration to you, if you don’t mind. I’ve pulled out six lessons which I believe will really benefit you as you strive to finish 2011 strong.

This is not a meant to be an exposition of the Biblical text, nor is it intended to be religious instruction. You can drop in on my weekly Bible study class if you’re interested in that. This newsletter is designed to help you build your business, and that’s what we’re going to do today.

Lesson 1: Enjoy What You Do

“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.” Ecclesiastes 2:24 New International Version

Who told you that work shouldn’t be enjoyable? The truth of the matter is that many Americans do not enjoy their jobs. Results released at the beginning of the year from a poll taken by the Conference Board indicate that only 45% of us are satisfied with our jobs. That’s the lowest level since they started taking the poll 22 years ago.

There are many factors that go into being satisfied with the work you do. There should be some level of enjoyment. Ideally, each of us would work in areas we’re gifted in, doing things we love to do.  Thomas Edison is quoted as saying “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.

Satisfaction also implies that your work means something to you. Your inner drives and passions should match with your work. If you’ve been hanging around me for long, you know that I’m a quote nut, so here’s another for you: Malcolm Forbes said that “the biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy.” You don’t have to go to work just to get a paycheck or earn a living. In fact, you’re really robbing yourself if you think about business that way. You have something special to offer the world. Something great. You just have to figure out what that is.

If you’re in a position you’re not crazy about, I bet you can still find something about it to enjoy or to be satisfied about. There’s nothing better than to enjoy your work while you work toward your dream, whether it be a job or an entrepreneurial opportunity.

One more note here. The New American Standard phrases Ecclesiastes 2:24 a little differently. It says that “there is nothing better than for a man to…tell himself that his labor is good.” You should only be doing work you can feel good about. What good is money if you have to sell your soul and beat down your conscience to earn it?

Lesson 2: Give It All You’ve Got

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10 New International Version

This is related to the first lesson. It’s worth saying, though.

To keep it simple, never give less than 100% in your work. Whether you run a Fortune 500 company or a neighborhood shop that’s been in the family for generations, work as smart and as hard as you can every day.

There are times when “coasting” seems like a good idea, You know the feeling. “I worked my butt off yesterday, so I think I’ll take it easy today.” This is especially easy to do when you aren’t finding satisfaction in what you’re doing.

You don’t need me to tell you that this mentality is appealing to all of us every once in a while. But giving into it is dangerous. Giving your best effort will bring success faster. You’ll experience breakthroughs that you’d have never come across just drifting along. And you’ll have a chance to gain mastery that comes with going all out. Anyone who wants to get to the top of their game and be recognized as an expert or superstar will have to put all their might behind their work.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t take vacations or enjoy your leisure time. You absolutely have to do that. But when you’re working, give it all you’ve got.

I’ve often noted that “success is never accidental.” If you insist on coasting or working half-heartedly, don’t hold your breath waiting on it. On the other hand, success can be coincidental. It tends to happen while you’re working hard.

Lesson 3: Live Up to Your Claims

“It is better to say nothing than to promise something that you don’t follow through on.” Ecclesiastes 5:5 New Living Translation

This lesson is simple enough, but so many businesses screw up at this point.

In a recent post on my blog, I put up a video of an old television commercial for Cash4Gold. I don’t have any issue with the concept of sending in jewelry in exchange for money. It’s a good idea: people need money, Cash4Gold and its counterparts are getting ultra-high rates for precious metals, so no one is really getting robbed, as far as I know.

The problem is how the commercial is set up. The claim is that you can end your “personal recession” by dealing with this company. Crazy, huh? A bit insulting, too. Do I look like an idiot? (Don’t answer that)

Jerry Della Famina says that “there is a great deal of advertising that is much better than the product. When that happens, all the good advertising will do is put you out of business faster.”

And Bill Bernbach: “Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.”

Many businesspeople and marketers feel the need to use hype and exaggerated claims to get attention for their product or service. Salespeople often overpromise to close the deal. This is no good. Your customers will find you out. And then, all your credibility is gone. The negative publicity you’ll receive often more than undoes the positive contributions gained by the dishonesty.

Don’t say you can do anything you can’t. Don’t promise to do anything that you won’t do.

If you say it, you better do it!

Having said that, never shy away from making big claims if you can back them up. Sometimes we are scared to make the bold statements about how great our product or service is. But if it’s true, tell the world. Otherwise you’re selling yourself short and robbing your potential customers of an opportunity to have a great experience.

Lesson 4: Pay Attention to the Seasons

“There is a time for everything.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 New Living Translation

In this passage, Solomon describes one of life’s great truths. There is a time for everything. Then he lists several of them: there’s a time to be born, to die, to plant and harvest, to cry and laugh.

So where am I going with this? Two things.

First, don’t let economic cycles destroy your confidence or courage. These cycles occur on a macro (nation- or even worldwide) level, as well as on a micro level (pertaining to you and your business personally). You will have to be smart to figure out how to thrive in both good times and bad, but don’t throw in the towel just because we’re in a recession. Don’t mentally give up, like so many of your colleagues and competitors already have. This is a season. It will pass sooner or later.

Second, I want to focus on Ecclesiastes 3:6, which says there is a “time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.”

Specifically, I’m thinking about clients and customers here. There is a time when your business needs to be on the look out for new and more customers. For some businesses and industries, that may be all the time. For others, clients stick around longer and the need to get new or more is much less urgent.

Every business has to balance their customer acquisition efforts with their retention efforts. Some customers you want to keep. But there are times that you’ll want to cast some of them away and get new ones to replace them. If you have “bad” customers or clients, ones that take up too much of your time, pay you too little, or who just don’t work well with you, it may be time to lose those individuals.

Lesson 5: Protect Your Good Name

“A good reputation is more valuable than the most expensive perfume.” Ecclesiastes 7:1 New Living Translation

Lesson 4 is an important part of Lesson 5.

You build your reputation by doing good work, providing value, treating people well, etc. You can ruin your reputation by doing crappy jobs, disrespecting people or making them feel ripped off. I don’t know that there’s any more effective way to demolish your chances at business success than to allow your good name to be ill spoken of.

There are a million ways to build a solid reputation. Here’s a start:

  • Always provide all the value you possibly can
  • Never leave a job done in a way that you wouldn’t want God to inspect
  • Treat your customers the way you would want to be treated. You know what? Do better than that. Treat them the way THEY want to be treated
  • Meet your deadlines
  • Be consistent
  • Don’t overpromise
  • Overdeliver as much as you can
  • Be the expert

Warren Buffett teaches that “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” I don’t think it takes 20 years to build a good name (at least not any more), but what he’s saying is true. You have to work hard to obtain good standing in your industry or locality. It is incredibly easy to undo all of that hard work. Be diligent in protecting what you’ve built.

Lesson 6: Three Is Better Than One

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 New International Version

I know this has been a long newsletter, so I’ll make this point brief.

Develop intelligent strategic alliances. Partner with other businesses and business people who you can work with in a mutually beneficial manner.

A good example of this is the home inspector I used when I purchased my house. He had an alliance with a sales representative for a home security company. Whenever he would inspect a home for a customer, he’d present an offer from his buddy with the security system. Both knew that new home buyers are ripe for these kinds of offers. They worked together to compliment each other’s business.

Look for ways you can do the same thing.

I also advise people to get a strong personal network in place. Family, loved ones and friends are an important part of life. Who wants to be lonely? When we go through hard times, it’s nice to have people to comfort us. When things are going better than we could have imagined, we want people to celebrate with.

There’s an African proverb that says “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Think about it.

In Conclusion

The road we’re traveling on can get rough. You may feel like crying, like quitting. You may lament with Solomon that “all is vanity;” it feels that way sometimes. I beg you, take heart, refocus on the goals you’ve set before you, and keep pushing. Mediocrity is not what you want. So don’t let it happen to you.


U of You: Why Education Matters More Than Ever

Education has never been more important than it is at this moment. Your parents always told you to get your education. Every year your teachers prepared and encouraged you to continue down the path to higher levels education.

Repeat: education is more important now than it has ever been. But not for the reasons that have been drilled into your mind.

I was watching television the other afternoon during one of my rare couch-potato moments. My wife pointed out that there was an advertisement for a college or university during every commercial break. Apparently getting a degree is big business these days.

The lessons you learn when you understand what’s really going on here can transform your business.

Let’s get right to the point, shall we? Here are 4 crucial insights:

1.  People value education. But why? Do they want to know more for the sake of knowing more? Of course not! People want to learn so they can get what they want. More. Faster. More easily.

Why does anyone go to college? If this were Family Feud, the number one answer would be “To get a good job.” Simply put, people seek educations to get what they want in life.

2.  Schools are rarely short on students. Good schools have people fighting to get in.

3.  Some of the most trusted individuals in any community are its teachers. Professors are acknowledged experts in their fields.

4.  Educators shape the way their students understand the world.

Now, I’m not telling you to go back to school. In fact, I believe the way the modern school system is structured is radically flawed.

Can you see how the 4 lessons above can apply to your business?

I’ll say it one more time: education is more important than ever. Your potential customers are constantly looking for information. Why? So they can get what they want. More. Faster. More easily.

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Better yet, how do you rise above the rest of the pack to become, not the best, but the only person your prospects want to deal with?

The most powerful way to accomplish this feat is to become the educator in your niche. Establish the University of You!

By setting yourself or your company up as the source of quality information and/or training, you have gained all the advantages that Harvard or Yale have. You are the expert. Trust is easier to gain, even from skeptics, because of the credibility you’ve built. Your “marketshare” of people seeking knowledge in your field will increase naturally and dramatically.

And you will have the opportunity to really influence the people you communicate with. Think about it— who has had a greater impact on your life, a teacher/mentor or a salesperson? (Not to diminish the importance of selling!)

There are more benefits to educating your prospects than can be covered here. If you’re ready to start reaping those benefits, consider the “Ivy League” approach to doing business. No degree is required. Just start taking action today.