Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Entrepreneur’s Commencement Address – 10 years after graduation

July 17th 2010 is my 10 year high school reunion. Ten years ago I was asked to give a speech at my high school graduation. Recently I’ve read a few blogs by entrepeneurs providing advice to recent graduates…  That got me thinking about what I’ve learned a decade after high school and what I’d say if giventhe opportunity today… And this time I don’t have to deal with the principal censoring me… 🙂

Ten years ago, my speech focused on the powers of the mind and positive thinking. Topics I’ve reviewed in my blog in several instances and, though those lessons are still paramount, my new speech offers a bit more “practicality”. After writing out my suggestions, I noticed I’ve written blogs to explain most points in more detail so follow the links for more clarification.

Keep in mind that a blog is much different than a speech. A blog can be read, reread, reviewed, and linked to additional information. A speech is heard only once. If given a speech I’d simply focus on 9, 11, and 13 and tell a memorable story to illustrate each…

  1. Develop good habits – We are all creatures of habit. Our eating habits, work-out habits, reading habits, education habits, relationship habits, drinking habits etc. etc. etc. ultimately form who we are. Your habits will control you. If you develop bad habits you will be fighting them for years to come.
  2. Never stop learning – Read. Attend seminars. Ask questions of your grandparents and parents and those better than you. Write and expose your thoughts to criticism. You are what you know. The difference between you and your millionaire neighbor is that he knows something you don’t and he’s taken action to do something you haven’t. Learn what he knows and then do what he does. This lesson is applicable for all professions.
  3. Always spend less than you make – This sounds simple. And it is. So do it. You don’t need ANYTHING that you can’t afford. To that I’ll add, never take out debt to pay for a toy (i.e. motorcycle, atv, jet-ski), vacation, or non-essential. In other words, ONLY take out debt for real estate, your college education, and, if you have to, your primary mode of transportation. Pay cash for everything else.
  4. Save, save, save – Now I’m bordering on preaching but Americans seem to have a serious issues with financial discipline. Get into the regular habit of saving at least 10% of your paycheck. Setup an automatic transfer to savings. When you get a raise, increase the percent you save and keep the same standard of living until you can live for 6 months entirely on your savings. Then invest.
  5. Attend every wedding you’re invited to – In the last few years I’ve attended weddings in Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, Indiana, New York, and Wisconsin. I’ve spent literally thousands of dollars travelling to these weddings and the only weddings I regret are the ones I missed in Florida and Nevada. If a friend thinks you’re important enough to invite to their wedding, you need to attend.
  6. If you’re not happy, do something else – At 10 years after High School and 5 years after college it amazes me how many of my friends wake up to jobs they hate. Promise yourself, at whatever cost, that will not be you. And if it becomes you, which is almost inevitable at some point, you’ll do everything you can to change it.
  7. Network! – Your #1 goal with attending college should be to network with as many people as possible. That includes classmates, professors, alumni and just about anyone else you bump into. Actively search out and befriend influential people. It will help you get a job, find investors, find great investments, and it’s a lot of fun. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know“, is as true now as it ever has been.
  8. Never lose touch with your friends – In the world of email, IM, texting and Facebook, there’s simply no excuse. Keep in touch with your friends. It makes the journey a lot more fun.
  9. Live today – tomorrow is never guaranteed – At every high school commencement you can stand there and say, in 10 years some of you will no longer be with us. In 10 years, some of your parents, or grandparents, or friends, or family will no longer be with us. You’re not guaranteed a 10 year reunion and your not guaranteed to have the same friends and family to celebrate with. In the words of James Dean – “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
  10. Serve God and others – TODAY! – The World Bank defines poverty as having less than $1.25 per day to spend on living expenses and they estimate more than 1.4 billion people fall below that bar. No matter where you are or what you’re doing there are people less fortunate than you in this world. While you’re at college, while you’re working through your first job and paying down debt, you’re still blessed. Don’t wait to volunteer when you have enough time. Don’t wait to donate to charity when you have more money. Give to others today and you’ll always be the better person for it.
  11. Set goals – And put them in Do x Be = Have context. According to a Yale study from 1953, the 3% of graduates who had written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97% of classmates years after graduation.
  12. Believe in yourself – Because chances are, at times, you’ll be the only one doing so. Be confident and fearless.
  13. Take a risk – I used to travel a lot for work. Maybe 40,000 to 50,000 air miles per year and another 20,000 miles on the ground. On a flight one night, on my way home from California, it hit me. My whole life and the “success” that people had seen in it was perfectly planned. In 25 years of life, as far as I could tell, I had never taken a single risk. It was a hollow and scary feeling to think that I was limiting myself to only taking on the challenges I knew that I could accomplish. Never give yourself the opportunity to look back and say that to yourself. Learn to fail. As the book, How We Decide, by Jonah Leher points out, our minds are designed to learn more from many failures than from a few successes.
  14. Skip class when you have more educational things to do – In the words of Mark Twain, “Never let school get in the way of your education.” When you’re negotiating for a job, never forget to get as much paid vacation as possible. I always attended class unless I had something going on where I’d learn more. Sometimes that lesson was that it’s more important to go motorcycle riding with my friends than listen to a professor talk about things I could read in the book. 😉 For some reason, that’s a lesson I’ve never forgot.

If I could sum these 14 points up in a single sentence it would be simply, figure out a way to do what you love with the people you love and everything else will take care of itself.

Lucky for you, my speech is much shorter than it was 10 years ago. These are a few of the important lessons I’ve learned. God-willing, in another 10 years, I’ll be able to review my thoughts again.

To your life-success, Bryan

Visualizations – The good, the bad, the ugly…

My last blog mentioned some ineffective visualization techniques however that in no way discredits visualizations overall… The “poor” visualization technique referenced was for problem solving. Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you lost your keys. Which visualization technique is going to be more beneficial?

  1. Visualize the future and how finding your keys is going to make your life better and easier and relieve stress.
  2. Visualize the past to determine the last place you recall having your keys through the point at which you knew they were missing.

Simple test, right? Obviously the second method is going to work and the first is completely worthless because how in the world is that going to help you? It won’t.

Since this is a business blog, let’s project that into our realm. Is visualizing something abstract like “getting rich” or “being successful” or “being happy in life” any different? Well you can imagine what it’s like to be all or some of those things, however how does that help you achieve them? As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t.

Visualizations work in limited scenarios and here they are:

  1. To train your brain and in turn your body to get better at a physical task. There is a great article in Psychology Today that explains the studies that have been done to back this up. In one study, Dr. Guang Yue had average people start weight training by going to the gym daily and had another group weight train by visualizing training every day. The group who went to the gym increased muscle mass by 30% however the group who simply visualized weight training increased muscle mass by 13.5%! Just by using their minds!
  2. To problem solve (by visualizing the past or present). As I mentioned in the example above to find your keys. This can be used to solve all sorts of problems from improving your next lap at the racetrack by reviewing where you were slow on your last lap, to improving code you’ve written for a computer program.
  3. To create something entirely new. In other words, visualizing a design, idea, or invention that hasn’t yet been created to help determine how all the parts, components and pieces will fit together. This obviously doesn’t guarantee a perfect design, but can help.
  4. To motivate yourself. Visualizing the wicked burnouts you’re gonna be doing in your new ZR1 or how the sand is going to feel between your toes when you make that month-long trip through the Mediterranean are definitely motivators. When your mind feels that a dream or goal is that close to being a reality it helps motivate you to trudge through the difficulties of today to get there.

That’s a relatively short list and so is certainly incomplete, so it’s probably more important to point out the main weakness of visualizations:

Visualizations haven’t been proven to help solve problems by visualizing your feelings or circumstances once the problem is solved. Self-help guru’s would have you believe that visualizing anything can make you produce it. In one part of The Secret a wealthy gentleman tells a story about realizing a house he’d been visualizing years before was in-fact the house he was living in now. He hadn’t even realized it until he found this picture years later. That sounds like a powerful testimonial for visualizing “being rich” or “successful”, but it’s a lot more specific and really falls into #4 above. Even that may be a bit questionable, though because he couldn’t be visualizing that one too regularly or you think he would have remembered it, right?

To clarify a beneficial visualization from a worthless one, consider the study above where people visualized lifting weights and gained 13.5% more muscle. If instead they visualized being ripped or how it would feel to walk on the beach with their perfect new body do you think it would have made a difference? I don’t think so either. That’s obviously the equivalent of visualizing wealth and happiness. It’s too abstract and therefore worthless.

I just added The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynn McTaggart to my Amazon wish list so I’m still keeping an open mind. Maybe McTaggart will present me with some evidence to prove that “The Force” does indeed exist and that you can simply “think things into existence” as the self-help guru’s preach. Until then, I’m going the way of Michael Jordan and skipping the daily affirmations and the visualizations of success.

To your success, Bryan

The self help guru’s are wrong – daily affirmations are a daily waste of time…

Take a minute and think for yourself what the most common self help lessons are… We’ve all heard them both in real life and parody by now. You’ve probably come up with something like:

  1. Think positively
  2. Tell yourself how good you are and that you have self worth
  3. Create a positive self image by reciting “Affirmations”
  4. Make use of the Law of Attraction – “Thoughts become things” – This one can be true if you full understand it’s meaning as you can read in my blog here. It has it’s place, but that place isn’t all alone as your guiding principle for success.
  5. blah, blah, blah

Stuart Smalley

Does that sound pretty close? We’ve all heard that stuff to some extent and obviously I’m going to now tell you that’s mostly wrong and half-true at best.

Do you think Kobe Bryant or Lebron James getup every morning or sit down before every game and tell themselves:

  • “Gosh darnit, I’m a great basketball player”
  • “My J is like butta” (i.e. I have a great jump shot)
  • “I have mad handles” (i.e. My ball-handling skills are awesome)

Do you think Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin do the same thing every morning or before hitting the ice? What about Warren Buffet? Does he sit down every morning and tell himself he’s the greatest investor in the world?

Of course not (though they may visualize taking a game winning shot, or negotiating a billion dollar deal but we’ll get back to visualization in a different blog). That’s ridiculous. Why don’t they do that? Because they already know it to be true. They know this in both their conscious and sub-conscious mind. In other words – they know logically and instinctively they’re great at their given profession because they’ve already proven to themselves (and the rest of the world) that they are.

Ok, but maybe they’re great because ever since they were little they told themselves they were. Of course we’ve heard of the professional athlete who predicted as a 10 year old he’d be in the NFL. But then again which 10 year old doesn’t think they’ll be a professional athlete? Sorry, that’s not enough. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. Think that helped his self-esteem? So did he sit around for the next year telling himself he was a great basketball player? Of course not, he went out and practiced until he actually was a great basketball player. And he kept practicing, and kept working hard until he was arguably the greatest athlete to ever pick up a basketball. Even the self help genius, Stuart Smalley, didn’t quite understand why Michael didn’t need affirmations.

Are you starting to see the failed logic of the self help “guru’s”? They tell you to tell yourself that you’re great before you ever are. Sorry to break it to them, but your mind knows the difference between truth and fiction. Even worse yet, as a general rule, your mind will reject the fiction and you’ll be no better off.

So what are you REALLY supposed to do to become successful? (And why should you listen to me about this?)

  1. You can NOT be anything you put your mind to. Sorry, your mom is flat out wrong. Think about it for a second, there are only a mere fraction of human beings every physically or intellectually capable of becoming Olympians. I say intellectually because you can be the greatest physical specimen the world has ever seen, but without discipline you’ll never be world class. We all can’t be Einstein’s. Doesn’t matter how good you are at high school physics or how long you study, it’s just not possible. If you need more proof than simple appeals to logic, read, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham. With very exhaustive research, he demonstrates why your mom’s words of encouragement are not at all realistic. Instead he points out that by a combination of nature and nurture we are predisposed to be good at something. Figuring out what that is, is obviously the trick.
  2. Visualizing vague potential future scenarios doesn’t work. In the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath references a UCLA study that had 3 groups of students try to resolve problems in their lives. The first group (the control group) was given some basic instructions on how to deal with problems by thinking about the problems and coming up with ideas to resolve them. They were then given a list of benefits for fixing the problem such as reduced stress. The second group was instructed to visualize the problem and all of the steps that lead up to the problem in an effort to find the solution. The third group was told to picture the problem being resolved. In other words visualize the future of how the problem will be resolved and what that will look and feel like. If you’ve heard the self help preachers, as I have, then you instantly “knew” the third group did best. Sorry, wrong answer. By almost every measurable dimension the group that visualized the steps leading to the problem, NOT the group who visualized the possible future solution or how that solution would make them feel, did better. Sorry, self help guru’s. You’re wrong. (Honestly, that came as a shock to me too. But when you consider the science and a bit of common-sense, its easy to see that they’re obviously wrong.)
  3. Lying to yourself is just plain silly. Noah St. John points this fact out in his book, The Secret Code of Success. He suggests that if you tell yourself every morning that “I’m rich” and you aren’t, your mind knows the difference and you won’t just become rich. Instead he claims that your mind prefers to look for solutions to problems. In other words, if, instead, you ask your brain, “Why am I so rich?” every morning, your brain will instinctively try to find the solution to that problem. He has plenty of anecdotal evidence though no real scientific studies to back up his assertion. In my book, that makes a LOT more sense to me than lying to yourself.
  4. Confidence comes with experience. Two weeks ago I went on my first off-road mountain bike ride in about 5 years. Our trail was one of the top 50 ranked trails in the US called “The Alien” in Aztec, NM. The trail was a complete blast to ride, but I must admit there were some hairy parts. It’s mostly single-track and you spend a lot of time looking into canyons, riding between large boulders, and trying not to lose your traction on desert sand. Lizards regularly run across the trail. My guide was a friend who has quite literally ridden the trail about 50 times. He even completed a race on the trail less than 2 weeks before. He also just happened to be a national BMX champion in his youth. He has half a room filled with biking trophies. In the particularly scary parts of the trail, of which there were really only 2, he warned me ahead of time. He could ride the trail with his eyes closed (actually he does often ride it at night) but he knew I was on a new bike on a new trail doing something I hadn’t done regularly for a decade. I was a bit nervous. He was not. He had mastered the trail. I was just glad I hadn’t wrecked. He had immense proficiency due to years of riding in general and in particular on this precise trail. I had neither. No matter how much time I spent that morning, or even for the last 10 years, telling myself I was a great mountain biker I wasn’t going to do as well as him. On the other hand, I promise you, he didn’t expend one ounce of mental energy “affirming” for himself that he was a great rider that day. Confidence comes with practice and experience and not with mental repetition (visualization is something entirely different).

So why do all of the “guru’s” get it wrong? I can offer a few guesses:

  1. They are naturally positive, confident, and good at things that bring success such as public speaking, learning, negotiating and leading people. Or they have some of those qualities and taught themselves the others. Since much of it is natural, they can’t ever figure out why other people aren’t that way and so just guess that if everyone else repeated to themselves daily what these guru’s already know to be true about themselves, they’ll improve themselves. Seems like a somewhat logical guess. Unfortunately, it’s wrong.
  2. They don’t really dig deeper. By that I mean they don’t read and research the books and studies that attempt to explain the human mind and soul and so never get a full picture of what they themselves are probably doing naturally.

So how do you get it right? Let me sum this up in one simple quote:

“The difference between where you are and where you want to be is knowledge.”

In other words, if you aren’t wealthy, popular, successful or a star athlete but want to be, you need to learn what people who are the those things are doing. You need to know what they know. You need to know how they came to know it. You need their knowledge and eventually experience and skill. Once you have that, you will have the confidence you need without tricking your own mind. Obviously this also assumes that you have the ability (either mental or physical) and temperament to do all the things they were capable of doing.

The simplest explanation I’ve heard for this is Do x Be = Have. Read my blog explaining that formula.

That’s pretty much it. Sounds a bit too simple doesn’t it? No memorization, no daily recitations, no lists of positive self qualities. Though it is simple, if that sounds easy to you, you misunderstood what I said. If you want to be as wealthy as Bill Gates, you have to know and do all of the things that Bill Gates knows and does (and be lucky enough to have the timing and potential that he does). That’s not easy. If you want to simply be a millionaire, find a few who you’d like to emulate and learn everything they know and do. Unfortunately, this is a lot MORE work than the self help guru’s would lead you to believe. Fortunately, this will actually work. How do I know? I’m working through it with my businesses every day. You don’t have to believe me. Let me know how those daily affirmations work out, though.

To your success, Bryan

P.S. This, I am aware, goes against some of the ideas of great authors such as Og Mandino, Napoleon Hill, and Tony Robbins and obviously that means some people may passionately disagree. However, I have 2 quick counters to that disagreement. Firstly, I see this as an improvement not a replacement of those great minds. We’ve learned more about human psychology and are able to more effectively apply it now then they were. Secondly, that’s what blogs are for. If you disagree, comment and let me know. 🙂

How to get the BEST deal on your next car purchase

At the moment, I’m negotiating for a new car, and I’ve learned a few things:

  1. If someone won’t negotiate with you via phone or email, they’re not real interested in negotiating with you in person. This happened to me twice. It wasted a lot of my time and energy and really annoyed me since they weren’t willing to make any good deals in person but assured me if I came to the dealership they would give me a great deal.
  2. They can give you a very close estimate of your trade-in, sight unseen. Don’t let them tell you you need to drive 3 hours in one direction to get that information.
  3. Whatever their first offer is, ALWAYS deny it. Do the same with the second offer, they can ALWAYS do better. In other words, BE PATIENT. How much better? Well upon my first phone call one dealer gave me a price of 36,000 and 0%. Second call he offered 31,000 and 0%. Third call he offered 31,000 and 0% and 18,000 for my trade-in. Fourth call he offered 31,000 and 0% interest and 20,500 for my trade-in. So from first to fourth call, we’re talking about a swing of about $7500. :-O  And I know I can get the price down even more. 😉 Another dealership, without even me prompting dropped the price on a car by $1000 from one weekend to the next. They didn’t even call me, they just emailed the new better offer to me.
  4. Invoice prices that you see on Edmunds.com and similar websites don’t mean a thing. One dealership I went to had a “Market Adjustment” markup over MSRP for Mitsubishi Evolutions of over $3,000 and they wouldn’t even drop the price to MSRP!!! Another dealership across town agreed to sell me the same exact car for $3,000 under MSRP which was about a $1000 less than invoice. Do you really think that car dealer was going to sell me a car at a $1000 loss? Of course not. The salesman needs to get paid as well as the dealership. The invoice price doesn’t mean a thing.

As I mentioned in my blog about selling to the Internet Generation, we know how to get a good deal. One of the ways we can the best deal, is by being “dispassionate” about the purchase by negotiating via email and phone. If you didn’t just get out of test-driving a fresh, new car, it’s hard to make that split second decision to buy it cause it makes you feel good. Car dealers HATE unemotional buyers! As a matter of fact, they feed on them. That’s why they want you to test drive their cars, they’re convinced that you’ll give them the valuable information they need about how much you love the car so they can sell you that car. Granted, as Dave Yoho used to say, “There’s no such thing as an unemotional, dispassionate buyer, who buys solely on merit.” I’m no different. So the question is not whether or not I’m going to buy the car, it’s just what do I have to do to get the best deal. And therefore, which dealer will I purchase from.

How dispassionate can I be?  I make up a spreadsheet with the numbers I want to see based on the 5 year cost of ownership of the vehicle taking into account gas mileage, insurance, car payments, and up-front costs. If the numbers in the spreadsheet aren’t where I want them, I walk out. I even tell the car dealer that. “Hey I appreciate your time, however this is what I can afford, if you can’t make money on this deal, I’m not going to ask you to sell me the car. I’ll just wait till I sell my car at a higher price.” That’s when they start coming back with better offers. 🙂

It’s worth noting that this is definitely a buyers market. With the sluggish economy car dealerships are hurting and are much more willing to make a deal now than they were 2 years ago. It’s not your fault that they need to badly sell cars. They don’t have to accept any offer that you put forth. As a matter of fact, you’re trying to help them out by buying a car from them. Always keep that in mind when negotiating for a car, business, or anything else.

To your negotiating success, Bryan

How do I change the culture in my office or business?

A friend of mine just emailed me today to let me know he’s just been promoted, is now taking on a much larger leadership role where he works, and sales are doing well BUT he’s having ‘people’ issues.

Well who isn’t, right? 🙂 All businesses have issues with unproductive, combative, and poor-communicating employees. But before you can address how to fix those problems, you need to know why people are that way. It’s my firm belief that the vast majority of people don’t want to suck at their job. If that’s the case, why do so many businesses have so many personnel issues?

Here’s a quick litmus test to see if your business is creating personnel issues or you just happen to have a few bad eggs.

Personally I’m not a big fan of the term “managers” as “managers manage resources and leaders lead people”. A hundred little things, like your titles, added together form a culture for your team and team members (not employees) that can affect everything about your culture, including financial results. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, so I’ll get more into what’s required of a leader in number 4.

  1. The first step is defining the culture you want… Mine is literally called our “14 Points of Culture” that set the ground work for our team expectations. While you’re laying the ground work for your team and culture, you may already have a Vision and Mission statement, but if not, that’s foundational so create that as well.
  2. From there you need to develop a Team Organizational Structure chart with the hierarchy of the leaders in your business. Keep in mind that the 3 points on a successful business triangle are made up of Sales/Marketing, Finance/Administration, and Service/Operations so your Team Structure should make sure someone is excellent at each of those things and has the supporting team to get better. At it’s most basic level, your Organizational Chart would include a Team Leader (CEO) above the Sales/Marketing Leader, Finance/Administration Leader, and Service/Operations Leader who all report to the Team Leader. Underneath each of those leaders will be their supporting teams. Keep in mind that the Team Leader should always dedicate half of his time to sales/marketing and the other half of his time to everything else!
  3. Create job descriptions for every position in your Team Organizational Structure. The descriptions should include expectations, benefits, Key Performance Indicators and benchmarks tied to incentives. No one on your team should ever be able to say “I don’t know what’s expected of me or how to do my job well.” More importantly, you must fit each team member’s skill-sets and passions into the position that will best allow her to express those passions.
  4. Now you start changing the culture by actively leading your team. You provide opportunities for open communication like regular team meetings (even going to the point of picking fights between people and departments). You provide regular and consistent feedback with quarterly performance reviews based on the 12 Questions Marcus Buckingham outlined in First, Break All the Rules. You rearrange your offices according to the rules of proximity. Make sure each of your leaders knows how to use NLP and then train your people. When you come up with new products, ideas, promotions, etc. you work hard to provide systems, procedures, scripts and all the pieces your people need to be successful at implementing new programs. You develop a culture of innovation by requiring people to come up with new ideas without fear of reprisal for “bad” ideas that don’t materialize… And rewards for the ideas that do yield results. You ensure that your leaders all develop relationships with their team members because the most important factor in employee satisfaction is an employee’s relationship with his direct superior.
  5. The fifth piece is probably the hardest, yet most important. You fire, let go, or force out the people who don’t fit into your culture, vision, structure, or job descriptions. You get rid of the people who aren’t contributing to the team and culture immediately. The lost time and energy in trying to “fix” them can almost never be recouped. However, if you haven’t provided for them an environment to succeed (with all of the 5 pieces), you’ll really have no idea if they’re good or not because you haven’t defined the rules of the game, yet. If you’re the leader or manager, this is your responsibility. If your leader or manager isn’t providing this type of atmosphere, maybe you should read my last blog on moving on.

Obviously I just presented a whole lot of ideas and pieces that make up a complex problem in a rather succinct manner. The myriad links throughout this blog will provide additional details on certain topics, however don’t try to make this TOO complex. Problems that are TOO complex get pushed to the back-burner, avoided, and ultimately never solved. Take these 5 pieces at relative face value, work on each of them, and enjoy the results.

For further resources, I recommend the following 3 books to help you change your culture:

  1. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
  3. Instant Team Building by Brad Sugars

To your culture-creating success, Bryan

P.S. Though it should go without saying, before you do anything else you should foster a highly ethical business environment. Without an ethical foundation, everything else will be overshadowed.

Knowing when to “move-on”, drop everything, and do something else

It is much harder to leave security than it is to take a risk.

In Thomas Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door, he points out that the profile of your average millionaire generally includes getting FIRED from his previous job and starting his own business. That’s right, the ultra-risk-taking macho entrepreneur millionaire you know generally became successful because, quite literally, he had no other option. Of course their are the guys, like me, who seemed to have everything going well but that just wasn’t enough and we had to venture out on our own and forge our own paths in business and in life. But don’t kid yourself, that give-up-something-great-to-get-something-better mentality is the VAST exception.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re reading a book or blog by a successful person who just happens to be in the minority who was just naturally programmed to never accept “good enough”. If that’s not you, you need to learn how to get over your current “security” in order to venture out on a “risk”. (I put both of those in quotes because they’re often not reality, but just figments of our imagination.)

So for the majority of people who have a job, house, family, car payments and a steady income, how do you decide to make the jump and take the risk of leaving your steady paycheck behind and trying something else?

  1. Risk-taking is just a lack of knowledge. – If buying a business, writing a book, starting a band, quitting your job to take a new one or just being the first one at your work to try a ground-breaking new idea seems like a risk to you, then you simply need to study more. You need to make sure you understand how to take that business to a level of profitability before you buy it. You need to know how to effectively market your book or band and develop a following. You need to know that you have options for your livelihood before you tell your boss off and walk away (something I never recommend). And if you’re simply trying to get everyone at work to get out of their rut and change, you better be able to back-up your reason for the change with some hard evidence as you’ll undoubtedly be met with nay-sayers. Whatever it is, you can always trace an increase in risk to a lack of knowledge on the subject matter and vice-versa. Let me make this even more clear. If you consider a “standard” medical operation like removing an appendix as safe, would you consider the same operation under the same conditions safe if it was performed by your plumber? What’s the difference? The risk is mitigated when the procedure is undertaken by a knowledgeable doctor.
  2. Hedge your bet. – One of the cardinal rules of marketing is ONLY the consumer knows if the marketing is effective or not. They vote on their choice for great marketing by spending money. The same is true in almost any venture where you’re going out on your own. You really don’t KNOW that your customers, readers, listeners or coworkers are going to love the idea until it’s out there, right? Well then, in addition to becoming knowledgeable, make sure you have a backup plan… Or 2 or 3. Of course we all know of the stories of people overcoming impossible odds to make their ideas work. Heck, the entire 3m success can be built on the concept of passionate people overcoming all odds to bring their ideas to fruition. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. Albert Einstein’s first 2 graduate thesis’ were rejected. A successful business owner friend of mine told me he was turned down by 27 banks before finding one who would loan him money for his first business. My point is not to throw the towel in because of adversity. My point is that consumers are impossible to predict, so if you’re going to bet the farm on an untried idea, you better have a few tried and true ideas in your back pocket to fall back on. Most entrepreneurs you speak with will tell you about their myriad failures that were necessary before becoming successful. They always had another plan and another way to succeed. Even at 3m where a culture of risk-taking and never accepting no is programmed into the culture, everyone knows there’s little risk of losing your job for pursuing that passionate idea. In other words, 3m developed that culture with a built-in hedged bet to encourage innovation.
  3. What is your time worth? – Though this is third item, this one is the most important. Most people grossly over-estimate what they’re capable of in a year but also grossly under-estimate what they’re capable of in 10 years. So what does that mean? We are likely to set goals for the next year that are unreachable but then either not set goals for longer-term or set drastically underestimated goals. If you always spend less than you make, you will never run out of money. But no matter what you do, you will run out of time. So how do you determine if you’re going to stay at your current job, position, or business? If you’re learning on a regular basis from those around you AND your given an opportunity to express your own talents and ideas then stay. The former is more important than the latter, but you should be able to do both. Keep in mind that you should be learning things that you couldn’t otherwise learn on your own. Notice, I did not say that you have fun at work or you have a reasonable wage with lots of perks. Those temporary benefits are important for someone who will live forever and so has plenty of time to find something better later on. However, if you’re not immortal, and you’re not learning at work on a regular basis, it’s time to move on. The reason for this is because with the knowledge you can be learning at an underpaying job, you can leverage that at your next job, business, or passion. That’s why people underestimate what they’re capable of in 10 years. It’s sometimes challenging for us to step outside of our situation today, whether good or bad, and view it as a step forward or backward in our 10 year goals because we’re just trying to make it day-to-day.

If after evaluating your situation, you’ve now determined that it’s most likely time to move-on, check out a few of my other blogs that might help you get started:

The most important life lesson, and the key to success…

Why not?

The first 3 steps to becoming wealthy

To your success, Bryan

P.S. If the concept of setting 10-year, or even 1-year, goals is a bit foreign to you, check out my blog on The 3 steps to become successful at anything

Employee Motivation – It's about winning!

Have you ever hit a game-winning shot, scored the game-winning goal, or converted the game-winning touchdown?

How about setting a new Personal Record for swimming, running, biking, car, quad, or motorcycle racing while taking first place?

It feels good, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, there are few things in life that will ever rival those feelings of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush that ensues. For the rest of your life, those moments will be remembered and often relived as you just love to tell those stories. Athletics have the power to evoke such an amazing feeling because they bring together a few main things in one place:

  1. Competition – No one is letting you win or succeed. Actually there are plenty of people hoping you fail so that they can win instead.
  2. Recognition – When you have the ball, or the wheel, or are on the track, it’s up to you. All eyes are on you whether it’s because you’re doing well or failing. When you succeed, they’re all cheering for you!
  3. Public Pressure – You are not behind closed doors. As I pointed out in my blog asking Are you putting yourself out there for criticism? public pressure forces us to be good or embarrass ourselves trying.
  4. It’s not easy – By definition, if everyone could (or even wanted to do it) there would be no competition. You worked hard to acquire the skills and talents you have, that brought you to that moment of victory. In other words, you’re doing something you are good at.
  5. Exclusivity – You’re in front. Everyone else is behind you. Only 1 person can be in that position.

So what does that have to do with employee motivation and business building? Everything. If you can understand and appreciate that feeling and those emotions, you understand what motivates people.

Though I used sports as an analogy there are parallels to this feeling of accomplishment throughout our lives. Here are just a few other ones so you can see the universal appeal of accomplishment:

  1. Getting the girl (or guy) – Especially if you had to take a risk to do so by approaching a stranger and your buddies were watching.
  2. Closing the sale – Especially if you’re paid on commission and you’re in competition with either yourself to do better or to be the best in your group.
  3. Buying a house or car or something of great value – Generally this provides a major sense of accomplishment as not everyone has the ability to do this (except for a few years during the mid 2000’s when anyone could get financed).
  4. Winning a competitive bid – You proved that you are the best and it felt good.
  5. Making a profitable stock transaction – You bought low, sold high, beat the market odds and beat all the “experts” while doing it.
  6. Getting recruited – Instead of being “hired”, someone actively and aggressively sought you out because of your talents.

The list can go on and on… My underlying point is simply this – If you, as a leader and manager, can find a way to bring Competition, Recognition, Publicity, Exclusivity and a Challenge to your business, most people will rise to the occasion and LOVE their jobs because of it.

If you can remember back to those 2 hour practices, or twice a day camps in the summer (3 runs/day at cross-country camp), it was not always easy, fun, or painless. As a matter of fact, the majority of the time it wasn’t fun at all. However, human beings are generally willing to sacrifice and struggle through all of those obstacles because the rewards of success, particularly the feelings that come along with it, are worth it.

Again, though I use sports as my analogy, this lesson certainly isn’t limited to the sports arena so don’t let that prevent you from getting the point.

The other day in my office, I started to ask some of my team about their experiences with sports. Even the ones who “sat the bench” understood what I meant by that great feeling of accomplishment at hitting the game-winning home-run. Ironically, the one who admitted to being the bench-warmer instantly latched on to our current inter-office competition. Every day she gets so excited about it she tells me about every single customer she signs up for this program and then “trash-talks” me for not getting as many as her. She’ll even walk into my office to receive a high-five to commemorate her latest score. Talk about fun and excitement at work! What may be most impressive, is that for all intents and purposes, her job is “secretarial.” Something most of us would never consider to be competitive or exciting.

Let’s take this concept one step further. According to Marcus Buckingham in his book “First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently,” the primary motivator for most people at their job is not how much they make. The primary reason for someone leaving or staying at a job is their relationship with their direct superior (remember that coach you hated or loved?). Take a moment and recall some of your favorite stories about your life. How many of those were directly related to your income at that time? Even your stories of accomplishment at work are rarely simply “I got a raise.” The accomplishments you made to get that raise are what makes for a great story and the true sense of accomplishment. The raise was simply the reward (i.e. winning the game) for showcasing your talents.

So to take this concept full-circle, compensation should be tied to these competitions and other measures of success. This is why I’m not a fan of an hourly wage. An hourly wage does not incorporate a single one of the 5 items that motivate people to make sacrifices for success. Admittedly, several of my team members are at least partially compensated hourly. The biggest problem with this is obviously that it breeds complacency. Once you’re used to getting that $10/hour, you are no longer motivated to keep working hard to get it. It’s a given; it’s guaranteed; all you have to do is show up.  What kind of motivator is that???

Great coaches, great leaders, and great managers find ways to motivate their team members to do their best by rewarding them for their talents.

To your “motivational” success, Bryan

P.S. Since you’re the coach of your team, make sure your competitions and motivators encourage both individual and team performance. ER9Y2V4W6YK5

The most important life lesson… and the key to success

For as long as I can remember my father was always imparting axioms and witty sayings on me such as, “your life is what you make of it”, and “you can’t control what other people may do to you but you can control how you respond”, and “you’re the only one who can choose what your day is going to be like every morning when you wake up.” Obviously those were all paraphrased and there were certainly dozens more.

He continued my education with tapes and stories from Zig Ziglar, and Dave Yoho, and Tony Robbins and eventually Brad Sugars. Somehow he would come in contact with stories of people overcoming impossible odds to better themselves. Quite literally this started in early elementary school for me.

There’s a reason books like Think and Grow Rich (#1466 on Amazon.com) by Napoleon Hill, The Richest Man in Babylon (currently ranked #5094 on Amazon.com) by George S. Clason, and How to Win Friends & Influence People (currently #151 on Amazon.com) by Dale Carnegie are timeless classics.
There’s a reason why movies like The Secret (Extended Edition) (#92 in DVD’s on Amazon.com) are so popular; creating an almost cult following. (Granted I did laugh out loud when the older gentleman said we don’t know how electricity works.)
There’s a reason why Brad Sugar’s spent more than 1/4 of his training on how to Buy, Build, and Sell businesses at his Entrepreneur’s Masters Class simply on having the right mindset.

And the reason is simple: The difference between those who are successful and those who aren’t is first and foremost their mindset. As one guy from The Secret pointed out, “Thoughts become things.”

“If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right”, is in fact, a cliche’ and yet it’s still true.

As I talk to friends and family about success, making money, building businesses and living an adventurous life, I make sure they know the most important part in their success is their mindset. If you truly believe you have the ability to do something you will do it.

This mindset has created 2 personality traits in me that everyone who knows me are abundantly aware of:

  1. Confidence – some might even mistake it for arrogance
  2. Fearlessness – or in other words, they believe I’m completely averse to risk

It’s important to understand that I was not born with either trait. In fact, as a child I was very cautious and always calculating before attempting anything new. If I wasn’t certain I could do it without getting hurt (physically, emotionally, or intellectually), I wasn’t going to do it. Though I always did well in school I rarely raised my hand and even if I was the best athlete on my sports team I would always feel as if I wasn’t good enough. Actually, high school athletics are what taught me that my biggest weakness wasn’t lack of talent or skill, but simply lack of confidence in my abilities. My point is these traits can be learned.

Every successful person has incorporated these 2 traits into their lives.

Confidence – At some point it occurred to me that absolutely no one will believe in me if I don’t. More importantly, if I believe in myself, others will as well. That’s what confidence is. Having the guts to take on something you’ve never done before, but know you can learn. Taking that risk of getting ridiculed, embarrassed or harassed by leading instead of sitting back and waiting for the safe move. If you’re going to be successful in business, in your family, as a teacher, or doctor, or builder, you have to lead someone somewhere and no one follows a person without confidence. As a coach of 5 year olds, I can assure you that even children won’t follow someone who isn’t confident in what they’re doing.

Fearlessness – This is simply a byproduct of confidence. School trains you to do what you’re told. Sports teach you the same thing (I can still remember getting yelled at for putting the basketball behind my back in a high school game). Your parents teach you to listen to authority. Throughout our lives, we are taught first how to obey and then, if we’re lucky, how to think and use our imaginations. Not being afraid to leave home, or move across the country, or buy your first rental property, or invest in the stock market, or buy a business (when you’ve never run one before), or write a book, or race a motorcycle, or stand up in front of an older group individuals and have the audacity to claim you can teach them something new is not done out of a lack of fear. It’s done because of confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Though I’ve told many people (inaccurately) that I don’t fear anything, what’s most important is that I don’t fear failure. No successful person does.

The very first step to being successful at anything you choose, is having confidence that you can succeed and getting over the fear of what might happen if you don’t.

Confidence and fearlessness are not natural traits for most people. Unfortunately, our youth teaches us to trust in authority more than ourselves and to fear the repercussions of what will happen if we don’t coalesce with the rest of the group. However, don’t use that as an excuse not to be confident and fearless. Use it as motivation to prove those people wrong.

My father knew that no matter what I decided to be in life (astronaut, paleontologist, NBA player, engineer and businessman were all on my list), my mindset and attitude were going to define whether I was truly great at my profession. What my father did not know, was that the foundation he was building for my mind would be echoed by my oncologist when I came home from college before the beginning of my sophomore year. Seven years ago Dr. Earle told me that the most important thing in determining my success in overcoming cancer was my attitude.

To your success in becoming confident and fearless, Bryan

Intrapreneur and Entrepreneur – The common ground

In my last blog, we reviewed the 2 most basic types of people in any organization. Of course there are more specific and scientific personality tests and reviews along with detailed methods of how to best communicate with the 27 personality types, however who is ever going to remember 27 personality types let alone how they best interact with your own type? Moreover how are you going to remember exactly which person fits which type?

In contrast to that, my idea is simple, quick, and easy and though it won’t get you a perfect result every time, it’s certainly better than lumping everyone (including yourself) into one category.

That being said, in Marcus Buckingham’s book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, he lays out the exact 12 things that every person requires to be effective at their job. I have probably recommended that book half a dozen times in my blog and if you’re a leader or manager for any business you need to read it. So let’s get a quick and simple review of what Buckingham’s exhaustive research points out. All team members require the following:

  1. Vision, Mission, Culture guidelines – What’s the big picture?
  2. Job Description – Obviously this will be very detailed for intrapreneurs and more flexible for entrepreneurs. Absolutely no one can
  3. Positive Reinforcement – Do not underestimate this power.
  4. The right tools to get the job done – Nothing can be more frustrating. Intrapreneurs will have more tactile tools while the tools of an entrepreneur may just be pointing them in the right direction.
  5. Someone at work they can trust – this is universal
  6. Progress reports – everyone wants to know how they’re doing and how they can do better. No one wants to suck at their job.

He has 12 items on his list. I cut it down to 6 overall so read the book to learn how to determine if your business is setup for maximum profit and productivity. The point of this exercise is to point out that no one can manage themselves. No matter how entrepreneurial someone is, if they have a boss, they need direction. Period.

Another commonality is goal-setting, though the way that goals are set can be different. According to a Yale study from 1953, the 3% of graduates who had written goals had amassed more wealth than the other 97% of classmates years after graduation. So regardless of your personality, written goals are extremely valuable.

Everyone should have written, measurable, time-sensitive goals. Those goals should include levels of education, income, savings, type of work, family matters, travel ambitions and everything in between. I’ve gone as far as to make a list of all of the motorcycles I’d like to own in my lifetime. Several are already checked off however the list seems to be growing faster than I can control at the moment. 🙂

Now most people have a general “big picture” idea of what they want. Things like, I want a family, I want a job that I love, I want my kids to respect me, I want to retire at 65 with $2 million dollars, I want to see Paris, etc. etc. etc.  Now if you have all of that written down and you reference it often that’s a BIG step in the right direction. However you can do better. Here’s a quick 3 step process to setting goals:

  1. You need to put everything into Do x Be = Have perspective.
  2. You need to assign time frames.
  3. You need to take into account your entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial tendencies.

The 3rd item is what we’ll address right now. As an extreme entrepreneur, my goals have time frames, but they are honestly relatively vague. For instance, in my lifetime I want to own at least 5 businesses, become a “young millionaire”, and write at least one book (though I have 4 in mind at the moment). As an entrepreneur, my immediate goal is to always find the best opportunity right now. That means in the next 12 months, I may write the book, buy another business, or get more schooling to help me learn more of the things that millionaires might know that I don’t. My point is, that my personality thrives on making the most of the moment. So instead of saying “I want to write a book by 2011”, I work on all of my goals at once and then go after the opportunity that’s best today, this month, or this year. In 2010 that may be writing that first book, or it may be visiting all the countries on my goal list, or it may be the next business. I’ll be working on all 3 and choose the path that is best at the time.

So how is that different than an intrapreneur? Intrapreneurs are more of the details individuals. They need specifics and they need specific time frames and they need a specific way to get there. Whereas I just need a “big picture”, an intrapreneur needs smaller goals to help achieve the larger ones. So if we take the same example of becoming a “young millionaire”, the successful intrapreneur will have a more specific goal list to achieve those goals.

For instance, their sub-goals to achieve the goal of becoming a millionaire might look more like this:

  1. Buy a business with vendor financing in the next 12 months that has the potential to double in profits within a year with only the $5,000 I can drum up from selling my stuff and from savings. I must pay no more than annual cashflow plus assets for the business. It must have the possibility of paying me enough to live on while I’m growing it.
  2. Build the business for less than 12 months and relist it on the market. It must have the potential to make me $100,000 profit when sold.
  3. Reinvest the $100,000 in another business under the same criteria but with the ability to potentially sell for $300,000 profit within a year.
  4. Of the $300,000, put $50,000 into down payments on cash producing real estate, $50,000 into the stock market and the other $200,000 into another business with the potential to be sold for $500,000 profit within 1 year.
  5. Reinvest as much as necessary into a business that can either produce sufficient cashflow to make me a millionaire within 2 years of can be sold for $1 million in profit. The rest will be split between additional real estate and securities.

Why does the intrapreneur need so many sub-goals? Because something vague like “become a millionaire” seems so daunting an unattainable however when you break it down into small steps with specific time frames and details it becomes a whole lot easier for them to accept. Entrepreneurs can often feel much more comfortable and in-their-element with goals that are more vague. The exact details can at times make us feel trapped. That being the case is a detailed list bad for an entrepreneur? Of course not. As long as he can appreciate that it’s a guideline and the numbers and time frames will never be exact.

So my last question is, how does this help leaders better lead their teams?

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to provide progress reports, to develop job descriptions, and to help develop goals for team members within your organization. By now, I hope that it makes sense that those job descriptions, review sessions, and goal-setting meetings might be quite different for the 2 basic personality types.

To you success in providing the foundations of the common ground, Bryan

P.S. If you’re curious why my steps to becoming a young millionaire are primarily contingent upon buying, building, and selling businesses check out my blog on the topic.

Intrapreneur vs Entrepreneur… The 2 types of people every business has…

Every business is comprised of 2 basic types of people.

Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs… Those who want risk, reward, challenges, and the excitement that comes with that and those who want stability, direction, consistency and the security that may come with that. Of course there are also those who just want a free ride and try to skirt responsibility, cut every corner, and get away with the highest pay for the least amount of effort, responsibility, or risk – but we’re going to skip over that lesser type and focus on the positive parts of an organization.

Before we delve into these 2 types, keep in mind this is an exercise in simplicity. It’s helped me determine and target which individuals I need to hire for which positions and it’s also helped me tailor, structure, and respond to those already on my team. Probably more importantly, it’s given me a greater understanding of my own requirements, desires, and motivations so that I can keep myself passionate and effective.

So which are you and how do you identify those around you?

Intrapreneur – These are the 9-5ers. The team members who don’t want to come earlier than starting time or stay late (though sometimes they may). They want to know exactly what they’re going to do that day, and know that next week, next month, and next year their paycheck will be there. For these types of individuals it’s very important that your leadership is consistent, fair, and direct. They want detailed, specific training. They want all the right tools and they want to know how to address any situation. These individuals are risk-averse and generally prefer repetition in their tasks so they know they’re doing what they do best constantly.

Entreprenuer – According to dictionary.com, entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, esp. a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” Within your team, whether they are leaders or not isn’t significant. They’ll naturally gravitate to the leadership positions and get people to follow their lead whether they’re given the title or not. They want excitement and a challenge. They are proud of their creative talents and want a forum to showcase them. Responsibility and appropriate reward for their risk-taking is very important. They hate being stagnant. If you aren’t helping them get better, faster, and smarter constantly, they won’t stay. Appropriately these are the traits of entreprenuers who venture into their own businesses, however with an environment that provides them the benefits of self-employment these individuals can thrive within an organization owned by someone else.

So why understand these classifications? As I mentioned above there are 2 main reasons:

  1. To identify for yourself which one you are so you can understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
  2. To identify which your other team members are so you can structure your communications with them to meet them on their level.

Let’s look at #2 first. What would be the difference between an Intrapreneur and Entrepreneur as far as appropriate compensation? The following video discusses some science that helps us better understand how to answer that:

The ROWE work environment is GREAT for entrepreneurial individuals. The studies he mentioned demonstrated that with those type of individuals working in complex, changing, challenging environments where “thought” is the primary value of the team members, compensating based on performance is counter-productive. However, intrapreneurs, who value consistency, will respond much better to simple tasks with compensation tied directly to their performance. Which is why in my organization, I work hard to incentivize those simple tasks.

So let’s jump back to #1 so we can better understand how introspection and clarification can help us perform at our peak. This is broken down into 2 sub-categories:

  1. Our interactions with other team members.
  2. Our goals for ourselves.

Let’s take a scenario and see how it might differ based on the circumstances. Let’s say you’re the leader and you’re implementing a new, exciting product in your business. Since your team members are in front of customers all day every day you have to get buy-in from all of them so how do you present it to an intrapreneur and an entrepreneur?

The intrapreneur will require a LOT of hand-holding. They want instructions, scripts of what to say, Frequently Asked Questions with the appropriate responses and all the benefits listed out so they can reference and recite them.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, need excitement. If they believe in the product and are excited about how it can help them and the customers whom they interact with, they’ll figure out the rest. They’ll learn how to answer the tough questions and the best way to present it in a way that’s comfortable and yet effective.

How do I know this is true? As one example, in my business we just started Platinum Care Plans which are simply extended warranties including all necessary maintenance. My entreprenurial individuals ran with it. My intrapreneurial individuals, at best, have started mentioning it to customers but have not sold one Platinum Care plan. Why? Because I didn’t present the information that they needed in the way that they appreciated so that they were comfortable enough to sell it.

Now here’s the real kicker, considering that I’m the entrepreneurial type (squared), is it any wonder that I presented the information in a way that was more digestible for the entrepreneurial team members??? Of course not. Which is exactly why we must understand how we fit into this scope. Next time I’ll do a better job of helping my intrapreneurs right from the start of a new product.

More importantly, understanding our own basic tendencies can help us more fully understand how to structure our business and personal goals. For instance, if you’re exceedingly entrepreneurial, at some point you’re going to want to go out on your own. You’re going to want your own business or be in charge of your own team with minimal oversight and you’re going to structure your education, contacts, and career choices to get you closer to that goal. If you’re exceedingly intrapreneurial, you’re going to generally look for a skilled trade and a reliable, predictable business where you can work. Now that skilled trade can be computer programming, accounting, or plumbing. It doesn’t matter much, you just want stability and the comfort that comes along with that.

Since this post is getting long, I’ll continue my next blog with more clarifications on what BOTH intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs have in common and require from their leaders.

To your success, Bryan