Archive for July, 2011

Mark Dinges, The World’s Greatest Wind-up Toy – My Reinvention Story

Mark Dinges owns California Creations, makers of the World’s Greatest Wind Up Toys.  His site is

Here is what Mark said in response to our recent call for Reinvention Stories:

Mark says:

1. Why: The market changed and we were forced to change with it.  The mass market and the internet grew rapidly while the specialty market was squeezed out of the middle.  Our loss of overall sales forced us to look for a higher margin business model to sell through our existing sales network.

2. What Were You Doing Prior: We were a unique type of distributor in the Specialty Toy and Gift market.  We found companies from around the world and exclusively marketed them to the North American market.  The manufacturer would hold the inventory, we would handle sales, credit, invoicing, etc.  Once the manufacturer shipped, we paid them weekly (guaranteeing their payment).  We would then wait for the store to pay.

3. What Are You Doing Now:  The margins were too low as a distributor.  We realized we needed to start making our own products and sell them directly to the stores (not using distributors).  One of the products we distributed was Tomy’s wind-up toys.  In 2006, they decided not to make their wind-up toys any longer.  Through negotiations, we were able to acquire their molds, allowing us to produce the toys while paying a royalty back to Tomy.  Along with the molds, we negotiated to be able to add our own new wind-up toys to the line and we acquired worldwide rights to sell the toys.

4. How I reinvented:  Since acquiring the Tomy molds, we have released over 100 new toys under the brand name Z WindUps. We have gone from an obscure distributor only known to buyers in the gift and toy industry to an internationally recognized brand of toys.

5. What Have Been Your Results:  Our business has increase by multiples and our long term outlook is extremely positive, because we are selling toys that have already continuously been selling since the early 1980’s. We sell more toys to adults than children, so we have a very large market.

-Mark Dinges, California Creations, For more information, please contact:

So what is YOUR Reinvention Story?  Send it to: and if we choose it for the blog and web site, you will see it published here!

Reinvention Nation™

Looking for business professionals who have reinvented themselves or their business in the last 5 years.

Please answer the following question.

1. Why you reinvented yourself or your business, what created the need for reinvention?

2. What were you doing prior?

3. What are you doing now?

4. How did you reinvent yourself or your business?

5. What have been the results?

Note: Responses may also be used on “Reinvention Made”

Send to:

Are You Impatient?

Your impatience can help you and hurt you both at the same time.

People have no patience for someone who comes in like the proverbial “bull in a china shop” and runs roughshod over everyone in the organization.

Your organization that needs to be reinvented didn’t get that way overnight…and it won’t be cured overnight either.  I often ask executives who call me and want a keynote speech on reinvention, “How long did it take to get to where you need someone like me to come in to work with you?  Do you think in a two-hour presentation that we will automatically correct that?”  They think and most often say, “No.”

They are right. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was met with almost derision the day after he presented it.  Franklin Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” warmed hearts during the Great Depression, but the country didn’t turn around for years.  And Winston Churchill still inspires people today with the speeches he gave on the BBC during the bombing of London in World War II, but no individual speech won the war.

Most major problems take time to resolve and a patient leader needs to know how to address them within the context and their specific culture.

Taking the Pressure Off Brings the Habits Back

Remember the loveable character, Sneezy in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?”   Someone would try to hold their finger under his nose to keep him from sneezing, but the moment they removed their finger, he would let out the biggest blow you’d ever seen.

The same thing happens when change occurs in any organization.  People tend to fall back on what they are comfortable with and at the first opportunity, they will.

The minute you take the pressure off, you’ll see old habits resurface.

Knowing what to expect can avert a disaster.  You can be the key to making a smooth transition.   Problems in change can be anticipated and your organization will benefit from the time you put into preparation.

Ruthlessly Eliminate Your Busy-ness!

As a manager how do your people feel towards your policies?

Do they feel rewarded for staying busy?  Are you sending the signal that busy-ness gets rewarded without regard to results being produced?

Rather, how are you rewarding productivity (that is: The results they produce)?  Do your people feel that productivity is useless as long as they stay busy?

My assistant and I have learned to eliminate wasteful calls, contacts and activities that don’t produce results.  We quit making sales calls to people who weren’t interested in hiring us and concentrated on the ones who were.  Our results have been amazing!

We got the idea from reading Timothy Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek.  Ferriss stresses that you and I spend too much time on useless endeavors (Looking busy) and not concentrating on those that produce results for us.  He is right.

Orient your annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals around the results you want.  Ruthlessly eliminate every distraction that takes your staff and your company off the mission of accomplishing the results.

Nothing else matters.  No other projects will be started or even proposed until the results are met and evaluated.


Who is Your Customer’s “Bartender?”

A friend I met at a remodeling association meeting said to me: “Painters are the bartenders of the remodeling industry.”

Of course, I said, “Huh?”

He explained that most people don’t think they can afford to remodel their house or even a room.  So they decide to simply change the color.  Painters are called in to do the job quick and easy (because how many people do you know who like to cut in the trim or sink knee-deep in a roller pan?).

During the hours (and often days) the painter is in your house, he/she overhears you talk about needing new cabinets, windows, flooring, closets and more!  Sometimes homeowners will even ask the painter if they know anyone who does this work, too!  They open up to a house painter like they would their local bartender!

“That is where my strategy kicks in.” my friend said.  “I spend time getting close to painters, because they are close to my potential customers.  I give painters whatever they want.  I treat them special.  I make them important spokespersons for my business.”

It pays off for him Big Time!

So… who is your customer’s “bartender?”

Who can you get close to that has the confidence and confidentiality to earn your potential customers trust?  Who can you get close to that is already close to your customers?

Are you giving them whatever they want?  What are you doing to make them feel special?

They already are important spokespersons for your business.  But you get to decide how!

Hiring for Authority vs. Responsibility

Why do you hire people?   Is it to give them responsibility… or authority?   Let me guess, you hired them to take on responsibility then let them earn the authority, right?

Wrong answer.  Here is why…

You can tell when you hire them for just responsibility because they are frustrated with coming to you to get your permission to do their job.  Your frustration level goes up and you are constantly in touch with staff granting permission to satisfy customers, place orders, wash their hands, etc.

What if you spent the hiring process testing to see if the interviewees could handle the authority (building a trusting relationship with them) and then gave them responsibilities to go along with the new authority you hired them to take on?

Have you ever had a job with a lot of responsibilities and practically NO authority?   Did you like it?

Neither do the hapless people you just dumped more responsibility on.

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July 2011


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