Category Archives: Three from Lee

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Three From Lee – May 2016

lflageLessons from our Veterans

The price that America’s veterans have paid and continue to pay is beyond measure. We celebrate and honor them on Memorial Day. We enjoy our picnics and family gatherings because of their efforts. We can pursue our dreams and goals due to their courage.

I will attempt to honor them by looking for wisdom we can apply to our businesses, careers and professions. We will examine three lessons to help us grow.

A Worthy Cause – Sacrificial Effort – Victory is earned

The Cause –

Work for a cause, not for applause – Unknown

Leaving the world a better place for their families and future generations was at the heart of the life and death efforts our veterans gave. A worthy cause indeed. We have the same opportunity as we grow our businesses and careers. Although the goal is to prosper financially, it will only carry you so far. It you examine and look at the enterprises that have “the juice” you will find a cause and comradery within the organization.  It may be making the better biscuit, a product that helps seniors lives better, or more sustainable manufacturing. It may be in the causes your company supports that inspires the team.  It doesn’t matter, what does matter is a cause everyone can rally around and that is clearly defined. The Cause – find it, define it, and rally behind it.

Sacrificial Effort –

 The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude. – Jeff Miller

Nothing makes a successful entrepreneur’s blood boil quite like someone saying they were just lucky. This is an insult because it completely discounts the risk and sacrifice they made. The things they gave up and the things they lost in their pursuit of their dream and cause. Great companies create an environment where the cause and the team are important enough for sacrificial effort. These employees feel empowered and appreciated and they know their contributions make a difference. I watched my dad work for the same company for 42 years and he loved it. He took pride in being “a company man”. Things have changed a bit. Millennials may not view the world quite the same way, but they are no less willing to sacrifice if they are convinced an organizations cause and beliefs align with their own.

The key thing to remember is sacrifice can be honorable and is required for success and our veterans gave us the ultimate example.

Victory is earned, but worth it.

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory. – George S. Patton

Powerful words from a great leader of men. What is more inspiring than the image of our soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima? The cause they believed in, the sacrifice of so many lives, the impossible challenges they accepted is what led to a victory that helped make the world a better place. Victory in business, like in war, needs to be defined. Unfortunately, we have seen the negative results when that is not the case. When we know and believe in the bigger picture we can learn from defeats and setbacks. We understand that sometimes just surviving to fight one more day is a victory. Lastly, they teach us that great leadership will inspire ordinary people to do and achieve extraordinary accomplishments. This to me is the ultimate victory and success.

Whether our cause proves to be worthy, and our sacrifices enough to lead to success, we would not be able to experience the opportunity without the men and women who keep us free.


Over the last 30 years, Lee Freeman has worked with hundreds of small businesses, non-profits and national corporations to help improve their brands, expand their markets and maximize their events. He has owned and sold several businesses in the printing and promotional advertising arenas. He has won national  management and sales awards. His biggest privilege has been working with, and learning from, so many diverse clients and organizations. He hopes this blog will be an additional way to share his creativity and ideas.


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Three From Lee – April 2016

threefromlee_guidepostGuidepost to Growth

When you think about growing beyond where you are now, does it inspire you or discourage you?
Growth can be economic, personal, or physical, it doesn’t matter. Although we will be looking at growth from a business perspective, success in one area will benefit all three.

In business it is the constant drumbeat – Grow – Grow- Grow. We feel the pressure, but we are not always certain of the process. One thing is certain about growth, it is not a random act, it must be purposeful.

“You are never too old to set another goal or dream a dream” – C.S. Lewis

Have you used words like goals or dreams recently? Maybe you should. If for no other reason but to unleash a bit of creativity and inspiration. Perhaps you need a different approach. I have heard it said “get mad or get excited, but get started”. So let’s take a look at our three guidepost to growth.

It must be Targeted.

It is easy to say we want to grow by “x” percent, but much more difficult to focus on a targeted market or process. Targeted marketing is the biggest area I see most companies struggle with and most of the time they don’t even realize it. In exercising terms it’s easier to grasp I want to target cardio, upper body strength, or flexibility because we understand what to do. In the military they choose a targeting package before the plane leaves for enemy territory. In an effort to grow many companies go from one extreme to the other. They either try something different every month and constantly change targets or they do nothing new or purposeful and just hope they will grow. Take the time to profile the traits that apply to your best customers. Wouldn’t you want more just like them? When I take clients through this process it seems to always involve an “aha” moment. Now that we know who they are, let’s set out to target more just like them with a targeted and measurable plan.

It must be Measurable.

There is profound truth and wisdom in the statement – “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
The key is to keep it simple and actionable. As you put together your targeting plan make sure you know what measurements you will use to determine your progress. A golfer who is seriously trying to improve will track things like fairways hit, greens in regulation, and how many putts in a round. Based on these numbers they know what area of their game they need to work on most. When it comes to your health you can measure pulse, blood pressure, height and weight and have a good idea of a person’s general well-being. Then, if there is a problem, you can adjust and make lifestyle changes or test more deeply. Okay, you get the idea, these marketing measurements are not to determine immediate failure or success but where to make adjustments. With each medium there are key measurements and based on your targeted plan you will determine these. The biggest benefit of measuring and adjusting is it helps to keep you focused and consistent. One last important reason to measure is to reward yourself. Keep it simple but do it! Remember the principle, “whatever you focus on grows” and this step keeps you focused.

It must be Impactful.

This may seem curious to you, but think about it in personal growth terms. When someone achieves great weight loss or overcomes self-destructive behaviors it inspires us and has a positive impact on us. It inspires us. We instinctively know it took effort, focus, consistency and sacrifice. We also know for us to reach new goals and dreams we and our organization are going to have to have those same traits. This gets down to your growth goal and purpose for the company. It is usually bigger than making money, although that has to happen. Many times this is accomplished by creating or recommitting to a Mission Statement or supporting a cause through your business success. Targeting and measuring deals with the how but the impact of your growth deals with the why. When your ship rises so do those who work with you and those your serve. Your growth will impact your community as well. That is the big picture view. Let’s zoom back in and look at how the message can be more impactful. Businesses often forget their message has to answer the prospects question of “what’s in it for me”. So many times I see a company send out information and advertise some really cool piece of machinery they now have. They point out how fast it is, how big it is, how high tech it is and yet never answer the question of how that
benefits their prospect. Whether you like it or not you are always selling and a good salesman not only points out features but benefits. You are telling your story and the more relevant and actionable it
is to your targeted group the bigger impact it will have on them and you.

These are practical guidelines that can help you create a foundation for growth. However, I will remind you and myself, real growth always stretches us beyond where we are, it always involves change and usually there is a bit of pain. But as the song says…”it hurts so good.”


Over the last 30 years, Lee Freeman has worked with hundreds of small businesses, non-profits and national corporations to help improve their brands, expand their markets and maximize their events. He has owned and sold several businesses in the printing and promotional advertising arenas. He has won national  management and sales awards. His biggest privilege has been working with, and learning from, so many diverse clients and organizations. He hopes this blog will be an additional way to share his creativity and ideas.


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Three from Lee – March 2016

low_hanging_fruitLow Hanging Fruit

Finally, Spring is in the air! No I am not referring to those yellow clouds of pollen that make the horizon look like a yellow haze and alter the color shades of our cars. I am speaking of the much welcomed warmer temperatures, blossoming trees, and longer hours of daylight.

Spring is a time we freshen and clean up as well as a time we look forward to fresh fruits and veggies.

With those thoughts in mind, I am going to share 6 “spring projects” to help freshen up your branding and marketing efforts. My challenge to you is to Pick 3 and make them happen. Let’s think of these potential projects as low hanging fruit on your marketing tree:


1. Refresh Your Web Site (or at least a page or two)

Before you panic, I am not implying a complete redesign of your site. But be honest, is your site a little static? Have you been running the same old slideshow/gallery images for 2 years? Are your “in the news” items ancient history? You get the picture. Keep it simple, but here are a few things to look at. The before mentioned slideshow/gallery images, update some or all of the current images. Read your content. Is it up to date and does it reflect your current products and services? If not, rewrite it and make it better. It is a good exercise. Add a New Product feature. Here is an easy one and a FUN one. Take new staff photos and update bios. Depending on your company culture, have an alternative bio. In addition to the professional bio add a more personal and humorous look into your staff. With a previous company I owned it was the most visited page on the site. Lastly, make sure you have added any social media links you have to your site.

2.  Make changes to your Email Signature

This is a must do and it is really the easiest of all the suggestions. Think about how widely your email signature is used and most are never updated. Here are some suggestions on a few things to lose: Fax numbers (do I have to explain why?), Legalese (from the American Bar), cute slogans and other messages that don’t reinforce your brand. This one is subjective, humor and the quote of the week may very well support your brand and company culture, just be sure.  Now for some Dos: Publish only one number if at all possible. It is less clutter to go through and no decisions to make about which number to call. Use only one website and make sure the click through works. Again, easy decision on which website is important. Add your email to the signature and make sure it clicks through. It makes it easier if your email gets forwarded and your email doesn’t display correctly. Lastly, change your signature slightly every few weeks or months. It makes people stop and look at your signature. One example is we alter our logo background to pink in October and green/red in December.

3. Update Your Voice Mail

Again, this is an easy one to do. This really should be updated on a regular basis as well and it is really worth a little extra effort. First and foremost, be positive! According to Dale Carnegie of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” fame, we can sense if someone is smiling on a phone conversation. I submit the same goes for a voice mail. Think of something that makes you smile before you record your next message (like that next big order). Change the inflection in your voice. You don’t talk like a robot in your normal conversations do you? Pronounce your words and pace yourself – not too fast or too slow. Lastly, let some of you show through. I have a client that always ends his voice mail with a very enthusiastic “I hope you have a fantastic day”. I can see him saying it and I believe he means it and it makes me smile.

4. Review Print Materials, Business Cards to Brochures

Much like the website this could be a big project, but let’s focus on some basics and find a few small things you could do that show you are on top of your marketing game. Overall make sure all print items look like they are from the same company. You would be surprised at the variations of logos some companies have on various print material. If you have outdated brochures you are still hanging onto because you had to buy way more than you needed “to get the price break”, take a deep breath and dispose of them (recycle). Digital printing technology now allows for much smaller quantities to be run that look press quality. This allows targeted product line material instead of having to put everything you do in a one size fits all brochure. So, it is a much easier task to create updated material knowing you can easily update or break out into different product lines or services. The easiest may well be your business card. The current trend is to go with a 12 to 16 point card. This is about twice the thickness of traditional cards. They are affordable and have a great feel to them. The biggest mistake I see in most cards is too much information and clutter. If you decide to update, look at several layout versions. It is good to be creative with cards but not an end all. It is a meant to be a tool to leave “contact” information with someone, not your sales piece.

laserprint_web5. Apparel Up

Let’s focus on just the internal application and positives of having various branded apparel for staff and management. I have seen this one thing pay big dividends for companies that at first were very reluctant to invest in this form of internal marketing (with external benefits).

transfer_webPutting your brand on comfortable, professional apparel has never been easier to do. Plus, the options beyond just embroidery or screen printing have advanced with technology. There is now transfer (heat press) type material that looks great on the new “performance” wear shirts and they don’t fade or crack. Another really cool look is the laser imprint. It gives a tone on tone look and larger imprint options. That being said, a good quality, easy care, shirt or blouse with a nice embroidered logo is a proven winner. It says you care about your brand and the folks whom represent it.

6. Look Up – Review your signage

To stay with our theme of low hanging fruit let’s focus on indoor signage and displays. This could apply to businesses that have walk in customers as well as those whose only use is for trade show or public events. Don’t be that company that hasn’t changed your internal signage or trade show display since Clinton or Bush. Ok, maybe it’s only been within this decade. The point is the same, step back, look around and see what simple things you can do to freshen up your brand. I will continue the new technology theme I have promoted on items #4 & #5. There are simply many more choices in products and materials now and pricing is coming down. The only thing missing is a little creativity and focus. For example, one very popular and easy to use material is the wall decals (like Fatheads). They are easy to move around and stick / remove on any flat surface. Also, fabric materials have created flexibility and easier shipping for trade show displays. Don’t forget, you may want to look down as well. Floor graphics are affordable and fun.

Remember, big images can have a BIG impact, use them.

There you have it; these are the types of little things you can do that help separate you from your competition. They will energize you, your customer base and staff.

Now reach up and Pick 3 of these juicy marketing morsels, then enjoy the benefits of better branding that will warm up your leads and blossom into more sales.


Over the last 30 years, Lee Freeman has worked with hundreds of small businesses, non-profits and national corporations to help improve their brands, expand their markets and maximize their events. He has owned and sold several businesses in the printing and promotional advertising arenas. He has won national  management and sales awards. His biggest privilege has been working with, and learning from, so many diverse clients and organizations. He hopes this blog will be an additional way to share his creativity and ideas.


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Three from Lee – February 2016

Musings on marketing, sales and life.

Welcome to the first edition of “Three from Lee”. I look forward to sharing with and learning from those that choose to join the conversation. Why three? The obvious reason was to keep it simple and consistent.  The real goal is to share information and insights that inspire and are actionable.

Your Business won’t
survive without it

Communicate well and Respond better – This sounds so simple but it takes work and it has to be important to you. This means you have to work to make sure you are being understood and more importantly, understanding others. A simple way to do this is just to repeat back to them your understanding of their request. Most fear this will irritate the client or make themselves look, well, dumb. I promise it is much less painful than getting an order wrong. What it really tells them is they are important and you want to get it right. Have you ever noticed good speakers and teachers manage to tell you the same thing two or three ways? They want to make sure you get it. Try to learn this skill. It will be worth the effort. We live in a world of “instant” and we all get frustrated when we can’t get in touch with someone or get an answer or response. We also live in a work environment where most folks are overloaded and wearing too many hats. But, if you are looking for a way to separate yourself from the crowd – consider a “Response Strategy”. Here are the basics, be as easy as you possibly can be to get a hold of (you may have to prioritize for certain clients), under promise and over-serve, do what you say and follow through. Finally, develop a system or set of priorities for responding to email and phone calls. Hopefully it will be better than your competitions.

Create and Innovate – For those who don’t consider themselves “creatives” just think of it as working to stay one step ahead and you can’t do this without keeping your eye on the horizon. For most entrepreneurs this comes pretty natural. They are first and foremost problem solvers or see a need they can meet. Simply put, they have vision. You’ve heard it said you have to work on your business as well as in your business. Here is the rub, quite often working on your business means working on yourself. This means you seek knowledge, mentors and influencers that will challenge you. If your business is going to grow or your sales are going to increase learn to be comfortable, being uncomfortable.  Also, trust your instincts and don’t give up if things don’t come easily or quickly. You don’t have to be Steve Jobs, but you can find ways to differentiate your company and yourself. Our next step may help you do just that.

Concentrate on your Strengths – Too many times companies both small and large get away from what they do best. Have you experienced this? How many times have you seen the CEO of a large corporation approach the podium at the annual stockholders meeting and say “we have to get back to our core business”? In the name of diversification or line expansion they lose focus. In the small business setting this happens so often because we feel compelled to be all things to all people.  I know, I get it, it’s hard to say no to certain types of jobs or customers that don’t fit your model. As a matter fact it is almost impossible if you don’t know what your model is. I suggest you get committed to identifying two things – Who you are and who you are Not – as a company. It’s scary but it is critical and can be very liberating. Don’t get confused, working to and focusing on your strengths does not mean you can’t be flexible or expand your markets. Personally and professionally we feel compelled to work on and fix our weaknesses when in fact it is being proven more and more we would be much more productive developing and increasing our strengths. Lastly, if you are focused on your strengths and who you are as a company it makes it much easier to create and innovate, as well as communicate your message. Funny how that works.

So, the Three from Lee today comes down to these

3 Business Reminders

  1. Communicate Well
  2. Stay innovative and creative
  3. Find your strengths and work with them

**Bonus – Good moods are contagious. Make yours worth catching.

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