How Entrepreneurs Think

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Jul 16

Recently, I asked myself, “What can I give people whom I coach? Something other than one of my endless supply of books, tutorials, slidedecks, courses, lectures, keynotes, assignments, spreadsheets, advice.”

So I came up with this, “I know, I’ll give them a whiteboard or, as my life coach calls it, ‘a vision board’.”

You can never have enough whiteboards and colored erasable markers around. Never!

Then I thought, “Hey, I’ll promote myself at the same time. I’ll add (in a discreet halftone) my personal website ( and my motto: making impossible possible. Then if it isn’t already clear enough, I’ll put VISION BOARD on top.”

My plan was to give one away to everyone I coach or have coached until I found out that each one would cost $40 + taxes. That’s thousands of dollars. Ugh. Out of my price range.

So that’s the end of the story, right?


Entrepreneurs never ask, “How much is this gonna cost me?” No, they ask, “How much am I gonna make?”

So I asked some of my key partners/suppliers (lawyer, mortgage broker, technology provider, renovator, building inspector, building appraiser, home stager, lender, designer…) if I add their brand to my whiteboard and put it in the hands of the folks I coach, would they contribute $20?

They all get a ton of work through me, so six of them said, “Yes.” Yes is a great word; it’s the best.

Here’s my hand drawn sketch that I set down when I first came up with this astounding idea.


Anyway, if you need help with the arithmetic, my whiteboards (ie, my branded promotional products that come with markers, eraser and hangers–like an army grunt’s MRE, meal ready to eat) now cost me a negative amount (I call this a negative cost):

revenue = 6 x $20 = $120/board (I was hoping for seven partners but only got six signed up)

cost = $40

profit = $80/board.


But wait a minute. Perhaps I could create a million pixel whiteboard and make a million dollars like that British guy who owns


Naw, that’s way too busy.

OK, so how about something more like an old fashioned placemat in a really classy diner, the Red Barn and Grill?


My life coach says, “No way,” so I’ve had to scale back my vast ambitions for this stupendous, groundbreaking promotion…

Alright, so now you ask: “But Prof Bruce, is it worth it for, say, your lawyer to pay $20 to hang her/his logo on the wall of someone you coach?”

Normal marketing principles say s/he should pay anywhere from $5 (for a bus board) to $20 (for a magazine) to $60 for a Facebook or google ad. That’s per thousand pairs of eyeballs. 

So that lawyer is paying about 1,000 times more to be on my whiteboard than in a magazine. 

But hold on a sec. 

Maybe 100 people see that whiteboard hanging up in my coaching candidate’s office or home over the next year or two. So now it’s only ten times more costly. Still.

But for that lawyer, I’m almost certainly one of her/his largest referrers, so s/he has to take into account that they get at least one client from each board, but more probably 1.5.

Every client has a lifetime value to that lawyer of maybe 7 transactions, each worth at least $1,500 per closing.

So their $20 gets them $10,500 in billings times 1.5 or a total of $15,750. That’s a big negative cost to them and an ROI, well, it’s a really, really big number.

I’m kinda like Utah

State University’s Josh Light. I put “their brand in my clients’ hands.” Watch Josh’s elevator pitch. The kid is terrific…


My potential partners also have to take into account what’ll happen to suppliers of mine who turn me down. I’ll let you guess the outcome… 

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

Hint: remember what Mr Trump used to say (it’s two words) on the Apprentice?

Spread The Word

About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.