Photo: Adam (left) and Michael Emoff drew on their own entrepreneurial experiences in writing the book.

This article is an excerpt from chapter seven of The Money Will Follow, the first book published by this promotional products industry father-and-son duo. They wrote the book in 2020 when Adam was just 14 years old and it combines Michael’s wisdom and experience (as a successful visionary, businessman and creator who has built, managed and sold multi-million dollar companies and ideas, and who holds over 50 patents) with the limitless creativity and imagination of a kid. The Money Will Follow reveals the insights of their business success and explains how everyone has the ability to unlock their maximum capability and capitalize on the numerous opportunities around them. At the core of the book is the concept of Project Genesis, a way of looking at existing resources and pivoting to fill gaps in the market to rise above the competition. 

If you want to stand out in your market and make a difference, you have to stand out in your passion and determination to succeed with limitless belief. Then, you’ll make a difference within yourself. 

In both your personal brand and larger company brands, be passionate about what you do. Passion shines through all the other minutiae out there, and the entire market—including your existing and prospective clients—will see it clearly. As I’ve said before, if you’re not passionate about whatever you’re pursuing, why bother? Joy and fulfillment fuel the highest levels of dedication, and that’s what you want to incorporate into your business. Dedication will help you to make your business sustainable, both for you and for your clients. 

There’s a series of questions I want you to ask yourself when you’re trying to propel yourself toward success: 

How valuable could I be to my employer if I was a practiced innovator? 

As a business owner and an individual, what value do I have to offer? 

What aspects of common sense do I possess? 

How do I project my common sense and problem-solving abilities?

How well do I differentiate myself from others, not through education or experience but through personal qualities, strengths, attributes and resources as a unique human being? 

How teachable am I? 

How strong is my desire for growth, learning and domination of my field? 

Those questions are essential to building your foundation in the business world. Take your time to answer the questions. Dig deep to explore every possible answer you can give. Those answers are your start, and you’ll use them to build and maintain your business in congruence with the following five pillars of success.

Being Trustworthy

Being Innovative

Being a Relationship Builder

Being Loyal

Being Street Smart (Possessing Common Sense) 

Prioritize those five pillars in every interaction and business dealing, and you’ll see them compound countless times as you continue to grow. The ability to recognize and fine-tune those five elements will help you build your foundation into a reinforced stronghold that you can use to succeed and crush the competition. As I’ve said before, competition in general sets a low bar. Success starts out easy and doesn’t require any growth or change once you’ve reached the first milestone. Go above and beyond to implement the five pillars of success, and nothing will be able to stop you. 

For any new, highly profitable business idea, there are six basic principles I use to quantify a successful business model. I put those principles into play with Project Genesis and ask my team to consider them when brainstorming ideas that could take our business to the next level. If you can answer yes to the questions below while including each one of these six criteria for success, chances are, you have a winning idea. 

I first began to develop these criteria almost 20 years ago in 2000 when a friend invited me to a CEO group, thinking it would help with some challenges we’d been facing in our business. This group sat down together and challenged each other on every single aspect of their businesses. They challenged me too, with Shumsky and our other business brands, and I found that the points of differentiation I claimed to have were generally centered around myself and our employees. The problem was that my employees were taking our great concepts and watering them down, losing them in translation just so they could understand them. Unfortunately, that process was reflected in the final product that was delivered to the market, which, in turn, diluted our results. 

So, identifying average people within your organization is a good place to start the process of top-grading—of making the average exceptional. After all, a successful business model needs to be centered around engaged and successful people throughout the organization. 

Is this idea sustainable? Is this a one-hit wonder that just follows a trend, or can it scale for decades and/or evolve with the market? Can it last through a broad and diversified client base? 

Is it scalable? Is there already a shortage of clients, or does the client base have the potential to grow indefinitely? Can we eliminate the risk of only serving one large client by having thousands of smaller clients?

Is it profitable? Profit is a huge part of how we sustain current operations and fund new ones. What are the projected profit margins and the cost of goods sold?

Is there a broad demand for this idea? There’s no point in pouring time, energy and resources into something without enough market demand. Is it something people are looking for that fills a need?

Does it perpetuate great cash flow? Money comes in and goes out and should be exchanged as energy and not as a limited resource. Will the idea help you get paid faster? Does it allow for cash in hand? Does it eliminate the need to hunt down your clients to receive payment? Does it provide an immediate cash supply, where payments are collected up front? Will it ensure that there is cash coming in faster than it goes out?

Does this idea solve your existing barriers of entry and create new ones within the market? What assets are required to get into the business, such as a factory or manufacturer, cash to invest, experience of workers or partners, patents, technology, buildings, tools and employees? What is needed to run the business? What can you shift to make it more difficult for others to get into the business after you? 

Of course, there’s always the question of value. It’s important to look at the value any new idea will bring to a business overall, especially when looking at it from a potential-sale perspective. Will the idea raise your enterprise value and/or sell price? Specifically, would the eventual acquisition of your business bring someone a return on their investment, attracting them to buy? 

Which path would you choose when leveraging your new idea with a patent or as a sale of the business or idea itself? What would make more sense long-term: licensing the idea for a percentage of earnings, or delivering a strategic buy to another company and increasing the combined overall value through the acquisition?

Before investing extensive resources in a new, highly profitable business idea, it’s crucial that you’re able to answer the questions above and assess its success and viability. What I’m giving you here is essentially an environment to help you form your own think tank, either on your own, with partners, or with your employees and active brainstorming teams. 

I asked myself all the same questions in my 20s when I took ownership of our family business. It was so early in my career, yet I was so ready to find the answers. When I did, I managed to re-engineer the company to make the business fit me—my passions, my strengths, my desire to look for gaps in the market and to fill them by helping people and making a lasting impact—instead of molding myself around the existing business. You don’t want your business changing you to fit the way it’s already running. You certainly don’t want it to take on a life of its own, which would force you to be reactive. But when you have the important questions answered and the five pillars of success in place, you’ll be able to let your business take on its own life while you remain at the center, as yourself. Then, you will have become the passionate natural guardian for your own business potential and can guide, shape and steer it toward limitless possibilities. 

Don’t be afraid to seize windows of opportunity, like I did with the cigar business and humidors in 1998. If there’s a gap in the market and you see when, where and how to fill it, do it. Jump in with both feet, gain the experience and ride the wave until it has settled. I never thought I’d be entering the cigar business, but I had an idea, patented parts of it and leveraged it to build a small but profitable niche within the market. Sometimes, that window of opportunity stays open longer than anyone thought possible. Sometimes it shuts quickly. But, if you’ve already stepped through to the other side by then, you’ll have taken that one idea, that one creation, to the next level and brought it to its full potential. Every experience in which you do that is one more tool in your collection, one more piece of knowledge added to your strong foundation, that will lead you to the next steppingstone in your own success.   


Reprinted with permission from The Money Will Follow and available, with this new cover, on Amazon.


Michael Emoff is chief vision officer at Dayton, Ohio-based distributor Shumsky and at Boost Engagement, a company specializing in flexible online rewards and recognition programs that engage participants and drive results. He co-owns the companies with his wife, Anita. He has a degree in marketing from Indiana University. Their son, Adam, 14, has been writing best-selling books since he was 11 and has authored 23 books. He formed his first LLC at age 10 for a paper airplane idea he and his friends created.