4 Insights from an Entrepreneur Fighting for His Life

With a tip of the hat to Eric T. Wagner, Contributor of Forbes Magazine for this incredibly inspirational piece.

Imagine you only have an 8% chance of being alive in 3
years. Think about it: an 8% chance — 3 short years from now.

What would you do? Would you crumple under the weight of
knowing death might soon be at your doorstep? Or would you
stand up and make a difference starting today?

Martin Howey is a man on a mission. You see — Martin has
stage IV colon cancer. And yes — his survival rate statistically
is not good. According to WebMD; the five-year survival rate
for stage IV colon cancer is only 8%. Martin was diagnosed 2
years ago — so he is staring down the 8% survival rate in 3 years.

Even more alarming is the revelation doctors uncovered two weeks
ago of Martin also having another form of cancer called Non-Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma. Radiation treatments start next week.

But is Martin sulking in the back corner of his bedroom as his
possible remaining years pass him by?

No. He is busy running his company as Founder and CEO
helping thousands of entrepreneurs world-wide; writing his
28th book; raising nearly $400,000.00 for Katie Couric’s Stand Up
2 Cancer program; loving his wife of over 40 years; spending precious
time with his 6 kids and 28 grandchildren and yes — even preparing
to jump into his second Tough Mudder race.

In fact, Martin remembers sitting in the doctor’s office and having
a deep sinking feeling when first hearing the news of his colon cancer.

But immediately his thoughts shifted to this:

“Okay — I’ve got this cancer. What am I going to do about it? I don’t
have time to get mad. I’m not mad at God. I’m not mad about “why me? Why did this happen to me?” I can’t go down the path of depression.
So okay: how do we fix this? What do I need to do to fix this?”

And so he did.

Racing against time with an extreme sense of urgency, Martin began
the battle of his life — for his life. Nasty chemotherapy. Surgery to remove 14 inches of his colon. Sick on a daily basis from the drugs.

But never weary in his heart. Martin always looked to the good and
pressed forward into his future. Determined to not let cancer beat him.

And yes — excited to wake up each morning, Martin wants to truly make
a difference in the lives of others. Which is the reason he accepted my
invitation to sit down for a real heart-to-heart on why entrepreneurs
fail and how they can overcome their roadblocks to success.

But as great conversations tend to do — this one also drifted off into
places you never imagined. From a man eager to share with the world
before he leaves it comes forth deep insight and true passion.

Take these words to heart my friend as I share with you just 4 things
of many I learned from a wise man who wants to make a real
difference in your life:

1.) The problem of “me-too” businesses
One of the first questions I asked Martin was to tell me where
he thinks most entrepreneurs fall short. I mean really fall short.
Is it in figuring out their Value Proposition? Is it in the inability to
communicate their Value Proposition? What is it?

Martin told me this:

“First of all; there are too many “me-too” businesses and “me-too”
products out there. Somebody sees a product or service and thinks;
“Well, I can do that.” Then they go and basically come out with the
same thing. But you can never maintain a long term competitive
advantage using this strategy. You’ve got to figure out how you
can give them something they can’t get anywhere else. A real point
of differentiation. Think: “How can I fix this? How can I upgrade it?
How can I change it; modify it, enhance it? How can I make it better
or different than anything else out there?” That’s the first thing.”

2.) Ineffective messaging
But Martin didn’t stop there. And I would agree. Even if you believe
you’ve truly discovered a product or service which is unique and
not readily available elsewhere; you must possess the ability to
communicate your message to an audience willing to pay for it.

Martin suggests using the “features; functions; benefits and proof”
method. But the benefit is the “so what” of the function. It holds it
in your pocket — so what? Well, so it doesn’t fall out when you bend
over. So if I close my eyes I can find it without having to look for it.
So I won’t lose it and have to buy another one. These are the benefits
of the little hook — and benefits are the best way to communicate to
your market. Plus, you need the proof: let me put this in my pocket
and I will bend over and see it doesn’t fall out. Now you put it in your
pocket and do the same and see it doesn’t fall out. And let me tell you
about John — he put it in his pocket and bent over and it didn’t fall out.

These are examples of proof.”

Martin summarized it this way:

“When it comes to communication, people think they talk “features and
benefits”; but they don’t — they talk “features and functions”. And we
don’t buy that stuff. We buy the benefit of what it actually does. So
think this way about your product, service or business: What is it?
What does it do? So what? Prove it.”

3.) Markets are conversations
One of the great books written just before the turn of the century
is called “The Cluetrain Manifesto”. In it; there is a concept eloquently
stated as this: “markets are conversations”. And yes — this seems
obvious in a day and age with the Internet and social media. However,
at the time, it was profound and I am still amazed today how many
entrepreneurs and companies miss the boat. Or, I guess “the train” in
this case.Taking the role effective communication plays one step further;

Martin puts it like this:

“You have to constantly keep in communication. Even after you’ve
figured out your unique value and how to communicate it using benefits.
Things are not static and are changing faster than ever before in history.
You need to have a dialogue, not a monologue with your customers.
Too many people are having monologues. “Here’s what I have and
here’s what I want you to do. I want you to buy this stuff.” But a dialogue
is asking questions. Getting feedback. “Well, tell me how you are using
that product or service? What kind of things would you like to have in
addition? What else do you buy at the same time, before or after you
buy our product?” Questions like these make all the difference between
innovation and obsoletion.”

4.) You can’t outsource your role in your family.
One of the last stories Martin shared with me was about a man he ran
into on a business trip. (And to me — this is the most important
lesson Martin shared. If you can get this — I mean really get it — then
you’re well on your way to a successful life.)

Apparently, this guy was stuck in Phoenix unexpectedly and couldn’t
get home right away due to travel arrangements or something. Listen
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Martin describes his conversation with him:

Traveling Man — “Yeah. Well, that’s not a big deal. I’ll catch up with them later.”
Martin — “No, it is a big deal. Fix it.”
Traveling Man — “What do you mean?”
Martin — “I mean fix it.”
Traveling Man — “Well, I travel some and when I’m home — I’m home. But
when I’m gone; I’m gone.”

Martin — “No — that’s not good enough. Your kids know. Your kids know
when you’re there and when you’re not even if you’re just sitting on the
couch while they’re watching Sesame Street. They know “Dad is with me.”
And so, you need to make sure you’re with them because you can never
go back and get this Halloween with these kids. It will be gone and you
will have missed it. Don’t sacrifice your family like that.”

As shell-shocked as the man was; Martin is right — you simply cannot
sacrifice your family. Something I personally learned the hard way.

Yes — you can work hard and fight for your dreams as an entrepreneur.
But the minute you let it consume your life to the detriment of those
closest to you? Therein lies the moment you lose the entire game of

So there you have it.

Only 4 tips of at least 50 I learned during our conversation.

Thank you my dear friend Martin. Thanks for your heart to share and
I pray you will impact the lives of many each and every day you are with us.

“I may have cancer; but cancer doesn’t have me. So today I fight.
Tomorrow I fight. The day after — I fight. And if this disease plans on
whipping me; it had better bring a lunch; ‘cause it’s going to have a long
day doing it.” – Martin Howey

So if Martin can help so many each day while stricken with cancer —
what can you do to make a difference today in the life of just one?