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Archive for September, 2011

IKEA – Billion Dollar Business Began in Mail Order

If you’re not a regular reader of the New Yorker Magazine you probably missed an excellent article in their Oct., 3, 2011 issue on IKEA, the Swedish based company founded in 1943 by Ingmar Kamprad. I’ve long wondered what the word IKEA meant or stood for. The I and K are Ingmar’s initials. The E stands for Elmtaryd, the farm his paternal grandparents started when they immigrated from Germany in 1896 and the A is for Agunnaryd where the farm was located.

The capital of IKEA is Almhult, a small village on Sweden’s southern peninsula. Kamprad, who is eighty-five opened the first IKEA store there, in 1953. Almhult lies halfway between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, in Smaland, a remote region of barren, rocky flatland. Smalander’s are known, more or less, as the Scots of Sweden. Faced with the area’s harsh winters and lack of arable soil, many of them immigrated to Minnesota in the nineteenth century. Those who didn’t are renowned for their obstinacy and thrift. The Smaland ethos is central to Ikea’s self-mythology. This wonderful article was written by Lauren Collins, a staff writer for the magazine, living in London.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with BECOMING A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE, bear with me and you’ll soon see. Ingmar when he began the business sold fountain pens, encyclopedias, table runners, udder balm, reinforced socks, In 1948, in imitation of a competitor, he added furniture to his portfolio. Guess how he sold these products. If you said mail order, you’re right.

One of the most asked questions when I speak at trade shows and conventions is “Can I really become a Mail Order Millionaire” and here is only one of many success stories of how it happens. IKEA is a multi-billion dollar business. It is ranked in Fortune’s list of the top 100 companies to work for and Ingmar Kamprad the founder has been ranked as high as fifth on Forbes’s list of the world’s richest people…and it all started out as a small mail order business.

Buy my book, HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE, and read it! It is a guide for finding and starting your own mail order business.

IKE’S Warning Revisited

He cautioned against the undue influence of the military-industrial complex. His advice resonates today.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dwight D Eisenhower’s farewell address, a Presidential speech considered one of the most noteworthy-and prophetic ever given. Often compared with John F Kennedy’s historic inaugural three days later.

This week’s blog is condensed from an article written by Ike’s grandson, David and ran in the September 5-11 issue of Bloomberg Business Week. Like Kennedy, Ike spoke about the responsibilities and challenges confronting popular government including his famous call to “guard against the unwarranted acquisition of influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”.

We tend to remember the Fifties nostalgically as peaceful and prosperous. Ike’s words conveyed a more complicated reality. Fear was a powerful current in national politics—fear of war, of Communism, The A-bomb and of a second great depression.

As the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, he witnessed what can happen when a totalitarian movement succeeds in reducing citizenship to spectatorship. Eisenhower believed active and effective citizens were the best antidote to fear. Taking office a mere eight years after the war and at the height of the Cold War, he worked tirelessly to defuse international tensions and to restore normalcy in national affairs, believing that prosperity and freedom could not survive a state of perpetual crisis. Among other things this meant downsizing the military establishment, without relaxing the guard against the Soviets.

He succeeded in cutting government spending, especially defense spending. Budgets were balanced and the share of economic output consumed by the defense industry fell from more than 40 percent of gross domestic product in 1945 to roughly 10 percent in 1961, even though defense issues—and scares—predominated in his second term. He likened the defense industry to other pressure groups in Washington as a “complex” serving a vital role but positioned to corrupt national policy by capitalizing on public anxiety and credulity. This warning coming from a conservative military man authenticated the earnestness of his words.

Ike prized hard work and self reliance. To friends and family his advice always stressed education, dedication to job and lively interest in public affairs. His farewell message conveyed his deeply held values, his dedication to America’s “adventure” in free government and our “charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment” In the years to come Eisenhower’s specific warnings were often cited and sometimes even heeded. Over the years defense spending fell, then rose, according to need, but never again approached levels reached during World War 11. Yet today Pentagon budgets remain large, and the U.S. military operates globally in a way not remotely foreseen 50 years ago.

While the military-industrial complex today lacks the power to control American thinking and politics, it retains significant influence, and defense issues are complicated by the arcane nature of high-tech warfare. Because of burgeoning deficits and the estimated trillion dollars spent annually on all aspects of national security, Eisenhower’s warnings about prudence and economy resonate today. His general reflections on the challenges facing democracy will pertain as long as Americans value democratic self-government.

Were he leaving office today, Ike might well speak of globalization and the social, political and, and economic implications of the trillions of dollars managed by four or five New York financial institutions, a concentration of power as potentially dangerous as the military-industrial complex of his day.

He was not the first to identify that complex, nor the first to warn of the self-interested and self-perpetuating nature of large corporate-public “complexes.” But he memorably spoke of these things as a President while freshly affirming a basic truth valid then and valid today: that America’s freedoms and our quality of life ultimately depend on tens of millions of active citizens, a sense of confidence in the future, and mutual respect.

David Eisenhower, grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is director of the Institute for Public Service at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Howard Lutnick – The Survivor Who Saw The Future

I’m writing this weeks blog on Sept., 5, less than a week away from the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It is excerpted from the NY Times article written by Susanne Craig and it tells the story of someone you should know. His name is Howard Lutnick and he is one of the survivors and an unlikely hero, in his way, of the tragedy. The complete article ran in the September 4, 2011 issue of the New York Times.


Ten years ago Howard W. Lutnick was a prince of Wall Street. Forty years old, and already the head of a powerful financial house, he could peer down on rivals from his office on the 105th floor of One World Trade Center.

Then—you know the rest…

American Airlines Flight 11 struck Tower One. Three out of every four people who worked in New York City for Mr. Lutnick at the brokerage fim Cantor Fitzgerald died that September morning—658 in all. Among the dead was his younger brother, Gary. That Howard Lutnick survived was, he concedes, blind luck. Some people died because they happened to be at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Lutnick lived because he happened to be taking his son, Kyle to his first day of kindergarten.

And so Mr. Lutnick, who ran Cantor Fitzgerald then and, remarkably, still runs it today, became an unusual, and unusually public, 9/11 survivor.


He knew that for Cantor Fitzgerald to survive he would have to make some hard-nosed—some said hardhearted business decisions days after the attack, before anyone even knew just how many had died. Mr Lutnick’s first decision was to not send any more  paychecks to the families of his employees. One widow, whose husband had worked at a Cantor subsidiary told televison anchor Connie Chung “I was disgusted.”. Andyet, since those dark days, Mr. Lutnick has defied those who said he and Cantor Fitzgerald were finished. He has rebuilt his firm and then some. And many of those who criticized him at the time—notably, spouses and parents of Cantor employees who had died—now say he did the right thing. Mr. Lutnick said he did the only thing he could to save the firm.

Among those victims from Cantor Fitzgerald were their brokers, the very people who brought money into the firm on a daily basis. Until they could be replaced, Cantor-Fitzgerald had no money and no way to make any. But  he did have was a plan, one that would become one of the most expensive corporate efforts of its kind. Cantor, he promised, would give the families 25 percent of its profits over the next five years. And it would provide health insurance coverage to all the families for 10 years.


Mr. Lutnick’s plan was met with a wall of skepticism. Cantor, after all, was effectively out of business and had no money to pay anyone anything.  Angry families jeered that 25 percent of nothing was nothing, but he knew to survive Cantor Fitzgerald would have to change the way it did business and it would have to replace those brokers who had died. His new business plan was immediately successful and when those first bonus checks totaling $45 million were mailed to survivor families the skepticism and the criticisim stopped. Cantor Fitzgerald under Mr. Lutnick kept all its promises.

While the payments to the families ended five years ago, the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, started By Mr. Lutnick shortly after 9/11 and run by his sister, Edie Lutnick is still a full time effort to aid families in many ways….the fund helps families hold charitable events, or more recently, to help find hotel rooms for the ones coming to New York for 9/11-related events.

Ms Lutnick and Cantor became an important voice in building the memorial. Each year, Cantor has a service in Central Park for families of its workers who died. This year a larger one was held at ground zero, where the National September 11 Memorial and Museum was dedicated.

Mr. Lutnick says he will never get over Sept. 11. But he has found some peace. He says that for years he had recurring nightmares that spiders were spinning webs on his face, sufficating him. Sleepwalking, he would drag his wife into the closet. Today the bad dreams are gone but the memories of all who died on September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten.

Do You Want To Become A Mail Order Millionaire?

I recently came across a website: and quickly realized I had neglected a very important piece of information from my book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE. When I started in the mail order business in 1953 it was with an advertising agency that specialized in mail order clients. They were very successful because they had been instrumental in making their clients successful. What a simple formula for success! I fell in love with the business because of the instant gratification of seeing our clients grow their business to heights beyond their expectations due to our agency’s recommendations.


Many of the more traditional advertisers spent millions of dollars a year in magazines, newspapers and on radio…TV was just beginning to attract some of those dollars at that time and it was commonly known that only 60% of their advertising dollars actually worked to produce customers and sales. Big problem was how to identify what worked and what didn’t. If they could only solve that problem they could save millions of dollars yearly. Too bad they never paid any attention to what mail order advertisers knew about accountability

SPEND $100…..TAKE IN $1000.

How come mail order advertisers could track their results so accurately and the big boys at the national advertising agencies couldn’t is very simple.Every mail order sale is key coded. Every order that came in the mail, every phone order that came in response to an advertisement had a key code…Dept XXXXX OperatorXXXXX Extension XXXXX. That key code identified the publication, the issue date and the specific advertising message so that for every dollar spent, they knew exactly how many dollars of sales it produced. No wonder mail order advertising had become the fastest growing segment of the advertising business.


To become successful in mail order you have to ask yourself… How Badly Do I Want It?

Have you noticed that most motivated people aren’t afraid of making decisions, despite the emotional and physical cost? Or that their decisions are accompanied by a healthy dose of determinaion? Why are motivated people so “goal oriented”? All people have desires, aims, and even dreams. The problem is, not everyone is motivated enough to actualize those dreams. Motivation is when you choose to do hard things because it is the right thing to do…for yourself, your boss, your client, your family, your life.

How Badly Do You Want or Need It?… Motivation is a function of desire. It doesn’t come from a passing fancy. It isn’t seasonal or variable. What you do has to mean a lot to you before you feel motivated. Your passion will make you lose sleep sometimes and maybe even raise your stress level. Passion and desire are the emotional building blocks of motivation.

What Is The One Thing On Your Mind?… Motivation is a function of priority. It is not a footnote or the thing you do when you “have time.” Unmotivated people sometimes have lots of things they would like to do, but nothing that stands out or compels them. Motivation responds to simplicity, priority, and clear goals.

There Is Always A Price To Pay…. Being motivated can be costly. It can cost you time, effort, money and comfort. This is why the object of your motivation has to be that important. Motivation is what takes you beyond the barrier of complacence and pushes you toward achieving your goals.

You Have To Lay It All Out On the Line… And that’s not just a line. Motivation at its highest level is about constantly giving your all. The level of sacrifice required is high. The implication of this in a competitive business environment is clear. Everyone wants a partner who will do their utmost to deliver an excellent product. You can only really compete if you are motivated.

More ideas and resources available at:

I choose to close this weeks blog with my favorite philosopher BEN FRANKLIN

All philosophy in two words, sustain and abstain.

“To be thrown upon one’s own resources is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; for our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”

A Website To Make You Weep

Featuring the wisdom of Denny Hatch.

If you’re reading this on my BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE blog then I’m pretty sure you have the desire to start your own mail order business. There are few things more important than making sure your website is customer friendly, easy to read and to navigate. If not you’re wasting your money because your prospect who somehow has found you will not order what you are selling.

Denny Hatch one of the great freelance mail order copywriters and a regular columnist in TARGET MAGAZINE has some words of wisdom for you. This is from his column in the May 2011 issue.

“Summers during the 1960’s I used to spend an occasional weekend in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and would go to Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony. I remember going into a restaurant in the area one evening where a young African American jazz musician named Randy Weston was at the piano. Fifty years later, I can see him in my mind’s eye and still hear the wonderful sounds.”

“Fast forward to March 2011. It was announced that the Randy Weston Quintet would be playing in the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. I went online to see about tickets and learn more about Randy Weston’s life in the years since I heard him that one time and immediately came to his website”.


“Go to and you’re greeted with a handsome black and blue landing page with a sound bite of his music and a slowly spinning outline map of Africa that cross-fades into a piano then morphs into a photograph of the 85-year-old jazz legend. However it’s all downhill from there”.

“Page after page is made up of tiny dark blue or gray type against a deeper blue background. Here is a web designer showing off ‘design’ and not giving a damn whether the viewer can read anything. The site is a textbook example of what’s terrible in website design these days.”

“Quite simply the Internet—for all its flash and filigree—is essentially a print medium. Start with the basic unit: the landing page. ‘Page’ is a print term. The rules of print apply. Among them:”

  1. ‘Type smaller than nine-point is difficult for most people to read.’—David Ogilvy
  2. ‘Never set your copy in reverse (white type on a black background) and never set it over a gray or colored tint. The old school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to read the copy; we now know that they make reading physically impossible’—David Ogilvy.
  3. “Avoid ‘gray walls of type.’ Try to make the first paragraph no more than 3 lines, and no paragraph longer than seven lines”.

The reason to go to Randy Weston’s website is to learn about his work—performance schedule, biography, recordings, photos and perhaps to buy an album or two.

“Yet the design gets in the way of the visitor and makes it difficult. Take a look at two websites to see what I am talking about: Randy Weston’s ( and mine (”.

“I designed my site and wrote the copy. It is not elegant, not pretty and will certainly win no awards. In fact, it’s ugly. But by golly, when you get there, you know exactly what I’m about, and what I want the visitor to do—buy my new book. In ample supply are info and some fun stuff to help make the buy-or-won’t-buy decision. And I follow the basic rule Make it easy to read and to order”.

“On Randy Weston’s site, his discography of 44 albums is unreadable—white reverse mousetype (seven-point or less!) on a blue background—as are the pages devoted to each album. If you can’t read the copy, you won’t order.”

“The tested, tried- and- true rules of design are alive and well on the Internet. What’s dead are websites created by unschooled goofballs who are breaking the rules and haven’t a clue what rules they are breaking”

To thank you for taking the time to read through my longer than usual blog, I’d be pleased to send you a copy of Denny Hatch’s “22 Rules Everyone Needs to Know to Guarantee Internet Success”. No cost, no obligation. Just shoot me an email.

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