The Never Accept “NO” Entrepreneur

Here is a fascinating subject for all entrepreneurs (and everyone else for that matter). It is the world of auto-antonyms with a focus on one particular word in the English language. What is an auto-antonym you ask? Don’t worry; you didn’t miss anything in school. Until I looked it up, I had no idea about auto-antonyms, sometimes called a contranym. Simple answer – it is a word that can mean the opposite of what it appears to mean. Now that the picture is completely confused, let’s focus on the word . . . NO.

“No” seems like a simple word to understand – right? Not so fast. In my world “No” can actually mean “Yes.” Let me explain. Remember when we were kids and we bugged our parents for something? Often the default answer was “No.” But we became conditioned to realize that “No” could be changed to “Yes.” I remember a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California when I was five years old. There was one particular ride that I wanted to try as soon as I hit the park. My parents – in unison – said, “No” (emphasis not added). They reasoned that I was too young. But I continued to harangue them throughout the day and wore them down to the point that before we left the park that afternoon, they finally said, “Yes.” In fact I was too young for the ride and had no clue what to do – one of the attendants had to come and rescue me – but I was victorious in my quest to flip “No” to “Yes.” I guess that was the launch of my persuasive powers on the road to becoming an entrepreneur.

Too often, we hear “No” and accept it as gospel. We interpret the word as a form of rejection; feelings may be hurt, and we may become dejected and deflated. This next statement is very, very important. NO. DOES. NOT. ALWAYS. MEAN. NO. If we simply accept the word for what we think it means then it is Strike Three and game over. But if we see “No” as the starting point for getting to “Yes,” there is still a chance for extra innings. And who knows – we might win the game in the bottom of the 12th!

Entrepreneurs who hear “Yes” when they are told “No” are “No Flippers.” They understand that being told “No” just means that they need to become more persuasive and work harder to build their relationships. By doing so, they increase the odds of flipping the “No” answer to a “Yes” answer. When we are told “No,” we have a chance to zero-in and learn something. If we are helping someone buy our product or service, it is imperative that we find out why the other party has declined. By politely asking for feedback we might discover that a minor change in the product or service could result in a totally different outcome. Had we simply accepted the “No” answer, we might not have had the chance to make the tweak that led to a sale. Sometimes we are told “No” not because the other party does not like us or what we are offering, but the timing is not right for them. This is where relationship-building is critical. We remain in touch and work to serve the relationship in whatever ways possible while staying in front of the customer in a positive manner. But remember – there is a fine line between the obnoxious childish whining we did as kids to get our way and doing what it takes to be in the right place at the right time to serve our customers.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been told “No” whether it was in raising equity from investors to acquire properties; securing a loan for an acquisition; negotiating the purchase or sale of a property, or trying to hire a particular individual to join our team. Maybe I am just thickheaded, but when I hear “No,” it is just a signal to step-up my game.

As entrepreneurs we need to become accomplished “No Flippers.” It may take a while and we will need to be creative, but eventually we will get someone to say “Yes.” Maybe it is the person we have been trying to convince all along, or perhaps it’s someone else. We use the knowledge we gain from hearing “No” to make the changes necessary to get to “Yes” and achieve success.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Slumping Entrepreneur

In 1961 Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies suffered a 23-game losing streak. The 2013-14 NBA Philadelphia 76ers endured a 26-game losing streak. In 1976-77 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the longest losing streak in NFL history at 26 games. Dan Meyer played both in the infield and the outfield for the 1983 Oakland Athletics and captured the MLB record for hitless at-bats in 48 attempts by a non-pitcher. Talk about slumps! A quick check of the dictionary offers the following definition of slump – “a period during which a person performs slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively, especially a period during which an athlete or team fails to play or score as well as usual.”

We have all watched sports teams at amateur and professional levels encounter slumps. Ditto for businesses. And we’ve undoubtedly experienced periods in our own lives where we perform slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively. Feelings of hopelessness and victimization set in. Day after day we become more lethargic. It is harder and hard to get out of bed. We are defeated shortly after we arise. When things don’t turn out the way they should we say things like, “it figures – I just can’t win,” and an air of resignation sets in.

A slump is simply a state of mind. While I do not have scientific proof, I believe we enter a slump because of negative thinking. We are rocking along with everything going fine and something happens that has negative connotations. Maybe we were certain we were going to win a certain piece of business and then we don’t. Rather than shake it off and re-double our efforts with a positive attitude, we allow the loss to gnaw at us. It might be very subtle or even subconscious. But we let that little bit of negativity into our psyche and that, my friends, can be the beginning of a slump. That is why I am such a staunch advocate for maintaining a positive frame of mind 100% of the time. Positivity is the best armor against a slump. When something does not go right, we need to see it as an opportunity to get right back on the horse and ride again . . . without hesitation. The negative creep in our consciousness will kill us if we don’t.

Suppose that somehow, we find ourselves in a slump. How do we pull out of it? The same way we avoid falling into a slump in the first place. The first and most important step is to examine our attitude. Recognizing the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones is absolutely crucial. And we need to make sure we get every last one of them. Even a lingering doubt of any sort can be enough to keep the slump alive.

Once we return to a positive frame of mind, we can take some additional steps to ensure that we are back on track and the slump is behind us. Look for a small victory of some sort. No need to swing for the fences – just get a base hit. For example, we don’t need to immediately make that next big sale. Instead, simply get an appointment to meet with a prospective customer. Also, it is a good time to review the basics and fundamentals of whatever it is that you do. This becomes a necessary grounding exercise. A baseball player who is struggling at the plate will often focus on the mechanics of his hitting. Perhaps he finds that a very minor change in technique makes all the difference. With a completely positive mindset and solid basics and fundamentals working in concert, the final step is going to a place of gratitude. We have so much for which to be grateful and must intentionally create a thanksgiving inventory. Focusing on gratitude will close the circle and put us back in the winning mode again.

Slumps occur because we let in a tiny bit of negativity. We can quickly end a slump by regaining our positive attitude; by focusing on the basics and fundamentals of what we do, and by being thankful for all the good that is in our life.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

COVID-19 and the Entrepreneur

We live in very strange times. The public reaction to the COVID-19 virus has been truly astounding. People have altered their behavior – sometimes common sense prevails and other times it is like observing a bizarre alternative universe. Through it all, businesses large and small have been ravaged and some are gone forever. As entrepreneurs, most of us have never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. We are attempting to plot a course that not only leads to survival but also offers an opportunity to thrive. So, how should the entrepreneur view and react to COVID-19?

What is the worst thing we can do right now with respect to this virus? It’s not going to be what you might think. First and foremost – we must stop watching and listening to the media. Why? Because there is a tremendous amount of misinformation being conveyed – sometimes intentionally. By consuming a daily dose of COVID-19 from our newspapers, televisions, and social media, one could easily conclude that every new case reported is going to end with someone’s death. And where does this lead . . . FEAR!

Fear can be a terribly destructive force. In short bursts, it is potentially protective in nature for it may be enough to cause us to pause and course correct in such a way to avoid serious harm – physical, emotional, financial, etc. The kind of fear being caused by COVID-19 appears to be a constant fear. Fear – especially constant fear – results in stress, triggering a hormone called cortisol. An elevated level of cortisol over an extended period is a bad thing in many ways. It can negatively impact the immune system and cause an increase in cholesterol, blood pressure and heart disease. A healthy immune system is exactly what we need to ward off this virus. Elevated cortisol and its underlying stress can also lead to serious mental illness issues and depression.

Think about how we react to fear in our daily lives. Are we able to make clear and rational decisions when we are afraid? Do we experience positive energy that opens us up to being more creative? Are we strategic when we are in the “fight or flight mode?” The answer to these questions is obvious. And yet, I know many entrepreneurs who are living in a chronically fearful and stressful state as they try to deal with COVID-19 and its impact on their businesses. There is no joy in Mudville right now (for those of you too young to remember this reference, Google the classic poem, Casey at the Bat).

There is a solution to the fear. Get. The. Facts. I said earlier that we should stop paying attention to the media. Instead, go to sources for the actual data. Dig into the CDC website – it is a treasure trove of information. Interview medical professionals who have real insight into the virus and avoid anecdotal accounts that you might hear second or third hand. Stitch together the facts from as many different sources as you can. The data is not perfect and there will be some contradictory results at times. But for the most part, we can synthesize what we discover in ways that makes sense. Then, armed with the facts, we can reach logical conclusions that will lead to strategies we can deploy.

We make sure we maintain good daily physical activity which is a great stressbuster. Besides staying physically fit we practice good eating and sleeping habits. We regularly connect with our friends, family, and colleagues. We strive to do what we can to help and support other people. Above all, we remain positive and know that this moment in history will pass just like all the others have for time immemorial. Guess what? These are all things we should be doing regardless of COVID-19!

COVID-19 should not rule our lives. We must ignore the politics, the politicians, and the media for they are likely agenda-driven in some way. Instead we take charge of what we believe and drive away the fear that we may be feeling.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The “Right Way” Entrepreneur

I have written before about the sales mindset. But I would like to expand on this subject with some additional thoughts. Entrepreneurs are always selling whether it is raising money, peddling a product, or convincing a new team member to come on board. We have all heard the adage, “he could sell ice to an Eskimo.” This conjures up an image of a slick, fast-talking huckster who cons his “marks” into purchasing something they really do not need. Obviously, this is the antithesis of how we want to be perceived as entrepreneurs.

I am trying to expunge the terminology of “selling” from my vocabulary. Why? In my opinion the traditional notion of selling is product-based. In other words, I have a product and I am going to do everything I can to convince you to buy it. What goes unsaid here is, “I’m going to do everything I can to convince you to buy it whether you want it or not.” Maybe this is just my personal bias, but I have observed others over the years that act in similar fashion when they get into the sales mode. Instead of “selling to” I’ve moved into a “buying from” mindset. I submit the following:

  • When we sell something to someone else, we’re product-focused.
  • When we help someone buy something, we’re customer-focused.

The difference in these two approaches is night and day. When we help someone buy, the product takes a back seat. We are more interested in building a relationship and creating trust with someone else. We are more interested in understanding exactly what they need. Through this discovery process we may find that our product is not best suited for this individual. But that is OK because we are helping them buy what they need – not what we want them to have. You may be thinking, “This flies in the face of so many of the selling techniques that are time-tested and proven.” And you may be right. But I am willing to wager that an entrepreneur who genuinely wants to help people buy what they need is going to win far more often than a salesman who just wants to move product. When relationships take precedence, they can produce unanticipated results. I have experienced numerous instances where I determined that what we were helping a customer buy was not right for him or her. But it was clear that the relationship was more important than the sale. And ultimately, we received referrals from those customers that did result in someone else buying from us.

When we absolutely must make the sale, we are less likely to focus on the customer. We are desperate to close the deal. One of my colleagues told me about an encounter she had with an individual who had called her to set up an introductory meeting. From the outset he was selling. He made no effort to learn more about her and establish a rapport – much less build a relationship. He made no effort to understand what she needed to purchase. He simply launched into his pitch and barely took a breath. By the end she was worn out listening to him and told me how off-putting the whole encounter had been.

There are some very simple rules that we can follow to ensure that we avoid the “selling to” approach.

  1. Always start the process by asking questions of the customer. This will help to establish a rapport and to determine his or her needs.
  2. Eliminate the terms “sales” and “selling” from our vocabulary.
  3. Genuinely care about the customer and find a way to meet his/her needs even if it involves a product that is not our own.
  4. Make certain that it is clear to the customer that it is his/her best interest that we have at heart and not our own.
  5. Remember the only way to develop long-term satisfied customers is to help them buy what they need. And the endorsement of long-term satisfied customers is worth its weight in gold.

When we always focus on the customer, we win. Sometimes this requires us to look past an immediate transaction. But it will always pay big dividends in the end.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Bus Driving Entrepreneur

Here is a scenario. Sales are flat. The product development team is feuding with the marketing folks. Production is lagging and customer complaints are trending in the wrong direction. Sounds like a nightmare situation – right? It’s at a time like this that makes us wonder why we became entrepreneurs in the first place! As we try to sort out this mess, something becomes quickly apparent. We have the wrong people on the bus.

The whole problem would not even exist if we had selected the right people in the first place. But for most of us, we are where we are and must deal with an unwise hire here and a hopeful hire there. Rarely do we make the right hiring decisions from the get-go and find smooth sailing forevermore. Something I have grappled with for decades is when to change out the people on the bus – and sometimes the bus driver to boot! The mistake I have made over and over has been to give people too many chances and believe that if I just find the “right slot” for someone, that I can “save” him or her. In recent times I’ve come to realize that we’re not in the business of doing social work and it does no favor to someone who is miscast to continue to try and salvage them.

Most of us have a level of empathy that prevents us from being Donald Trump . . . that is to simply say, “You’re fired!” But there is undoubtedly a middle ground. We do not have to have a hair trigger and instantly terminate someone who is beginning to struggle. And we also do not need to continue to enable someone for months or even years who cannot get the job done.

As with much about entrepreneurship, there is a process that can make the decision to invite someone off the bus both humanely and timely. We start with clear written roles and accountabilities. It’s imperative that our team members truly understand what is expected of them. Roles and accountabilities should be quite comprehensive, and they must be measurable. We also must make sure that our team members understand how to perform their roles and accountabilities and that they have the proper resources to succeed. If I tell a non-pilot that he is responsible for flying a passenger jet from New York to LA I can be very clear about this. But if he is not trained to fly the plane, then it will either fail to get off the ground or if it does, well, what happens might not be pretty. I realize that this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it illustrates the point.

Hand in hand come key performance indicators. These are the metrics by which we determine if the roles and accountabilities are being sufficiently executed. Ongoing performance reviews are also an important element of ensuring that the right people are on the bus. Some companies do an annual performance review. This may be fine in a formal sense, but team members need a continual feedback loop. Then there will be no surprises when the annual review is performed. It is also helpful (and often judicious) to offer a written assessment as part of the continual feedback process. It’s not so much to build the file as it is to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding where improvement is needed.

Often when things are going poorly, it’s the result of a lack of roles and accountabilities; or a lack of training; or a lack of proper resources to get the job done; or a lack of measuring results; or a lack of providing team member feedback, or all of the above. When this happens and we must make a change in personnel, we dread having to act. Why? Because we know deep inside that we probably did not do everything necessary to be completely fair with our team member.

Ensuring that we have the right people on the bus is a strong step toward building a successful culture and producing the results we desire. And following a well-designed process to invite people off the bus who are not the right fit will allow us to act objectively and at the right pace.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Joyful Entrepreneur

Vreugde and more Gioia! Yeah, I had to look them up too. The first word is Dutch, and the second word is Italian. But they mean the same thing. In Spanish, the word is alegría and in Swedish it is glädje. So enough with the mystery. The word is JOY. Unfortunately, this is a word that is foreign to many entrepreneurs.

You see, we entrepreneurs are a pretty serious and driven bunch. We have important stuff to do and companies to build. We are always moving at the speed of light and struggle to find enough hours in the day. Joy? Let’s see, maybe we can squeeze it on the calendar three weeks from Thursday at 2:00 PM . . . for 20 minutes. Is the picture coming into focus yet? The point is that many of us do not allow joy to get within two miles, much less become an integral part of our lives. After all, feeling and celebrating joy is not very macho and we don’t want someone to get the wrong idea.

Why do we persist in having such an allergic reaction to joy? Can we become one of the next captains of industry and still allow for a modicum of joy? Of course, we can answer in the affirmative and we must. Joy and success are tied inextricably by definition. If you do not believe me – look it up! Merriam-Webster clearly states that “joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” But here is something else that I have learned. We can feel great joy when we celebrate the success and good fortune of others.

I believe that joy should become a part of our daily lives. It is one of the healthiest emotions we can have. And here is something I have learned that become your secret weapon. Do you know what it feels like to get stuck in the downward spiral of negative thinking? We lost a deal to a competitor that we were sure we had in the bag. Or one of our key team members just quit. And maybe the bank would not make the loan we needed. When faced with these kinds of issues our thoughts can turn dark very quickly. But we can just as quickly turn the tables by “jumping into joy” and with both feet. I started practicing this concept years ago. Every time I would start to feel down, I would intentionally find someone who was in a good place – a friend, family, or team member. Then I would applaud their success or good fortune. It is amazing what a lift this provided for me, not to mention how it made the other person feel.

Joy is uplifting. It is shout-it-from-the-rooftops passion. It is at least one level above happiness if not more. Joy kicks the endorphin rush into high gear and does all sorts of positive things to our bodies. We can experience joy through all five of our senses – sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. If we do not practice it or if we wait for it to come to us, then in effect we are suppressing it. But if we go looking for joy it is incredibly easy to find. And don’t we like to be around people who are joyful? They are easy to spot. Their facial features are etched with a permanent smile and a twinkle in their eye. They radiate warmth and bubble with personality.

We can continue to be Mr. or Ms. Seriously No Nonsense, or we can lighten up and have some fun at work. For many summers, we had an Ice Cream Day. I dressed up in a ridiculous looking ice cream cone suit and pushed an ice cream cart around the office passing out Nestlé drumsticks, Fudgesicles and other delectable delights. I had a blast, and everyone had a good chuckle. This truly was a joyful moment for all.

Life is boring without joy – and so are we. Joy tramples negativity and helps balance our emotions. There is no downside whatsoever to reveling in joy.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Lucky Entrepreneur

I am sure you have heard the saying that even blind pigs find a truffle once in a while. Sometimes people will say that their luck has run out. Author Josephine Hart once wrote, “Lucky people should hide. Pray the days of wrath do not visit their home.” Theodore Roosevelt said, “As regards the extraordinary prizes, the element of luck is the determining factor.” Bill Watterson, creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes once quoted Calvin as saying, “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help.” That one is my favorite.

So, how often do we chalk things that happen up to luck? There has always been a lot of talk about coincidence, destiny and fate. It is as if there are certain influences in our lives that are out of our control. And it is pretty hard not to believe that this is totally true. But as the years have gone by, I have come to believe that we do control pretty much everything that happens, just not always at a conscious level. Once, I was talking with a friend who had been struggling with his job performance. He wasn’t hitting the sales goals his company had set and was on the firing line to improve. He had a breakthrough month and said this about it, “Basically, my team was down three points, and I got fouled shooting a half-court shot at the buzzer that happened to go in. I worked hard to get there, but it was purely coincidence that it all came together at one time for me.” But the reality of what transpired for him had nothing to do with coincidence or the serendipity that he describes.

What my friend did not realize is that he set an intention and then persevered to make it so. In the process, he created an energy that opened the door for him to win. We are such a tangible society. If we can’t touch it or see it, we often don’t believe it. Ah, ye of little faith, as the saying goes . . . right? But I have said many times how powerful our minds can be. Think about it. When we are in a negative frame of mind, how productive are we? How often do good things happen? Likewise, when we have a positive mindset how productive are we? How often do good things happen? I can’t think of a single time when I was in a sour mood and wallowing in negativity that anything really good came of it. And I do know that everything good that has transpired occurred when I was in a positive place. Thus, I have reached a pretty simplistic conclusion that if I stay positive, I will create the energy necessary to draw good things into my life.

Do you believe that NBA star LeBron James is the luckiest man alive because he can shoot the lights out and dominate the game? Or, do you believe that LeBron James maintains a positive mindset that propels him to work hard to take advantage of an opportunity given to him by his innate skills? He does a combination of stretching and yoga throughout the day. He works out in the gym and on the basketball court. He is fanatical about his nutrition and water. James has a tireless work ethic, preparing himself mentally and physically to be the best basketball player in the world. Is that luck?

We do not stumble into our success but will it to be so with our preparation and mindset. Keeping negativity at bay opens the door to the positive energy that is anything but luck.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The “Nice” Entrepreneur

In 1972 an American soft rock band called Gallery recorded the song, “Nice to Be with You.” I have always liked that song and believe it could reflect the personality of successful entrepreneurs. Think about all the people in your life and who you like most to be around. Is that person always complaining and negative? Or, is he/she upbeat and positive? A Harris Poll reported in 2013 that only one in three Americans were very happy. Obviously, there is a lot of progress to be made. We entrepreneurs can lead the way.

Entrepreneurs often get a bad rap. They are portrayed in the media and the movies as cold, heartless, ruthless and conniving. Certain politicians may characterize entrepreneurs as money-hungry and corrupt. We need to change this narrative and can do so every time we interact with someone else. How? I submit that when we are nice to be around, we can easily dispel the myths and stereotypes about entrepreneurs.

Now if you are rolling your eyes right now think about a single word . . . trust. Who do you trust more – a genuinely happy and friendly person, or someone who is sour and inconsiderate? I have not done a scientific survey on this question but informally asked a number of my friends and colleagues. It was nearly unanimous in favor of trusting someone who is nice. Our success is built on others trusting us, our team, our products and our services. Why wouldn’t we want to stack the deck in our favor?

Let’s take stock and see what we can do to ensure that others see us as nice to be around. I used a word in the last paragraph that is of critical importance, and that word is genuine. If we contrive our niceness it will be apparent and will cause others to think we are slick and manipulative. We must be real about who we are and develop the traits and tendencies of a happy person.

Here are some ideas that can endear us to others:

  1. We think of others first. When we can make someone else feel valued and appreciated, their happiness quotient increases exponentially. In a restaurant when the service is great, I like to look the server in the eye, call them by name, smile and tell them what a great job they are doing. And the enormous grin (and sometimes tears) I get in return absolutely makes my day. Taking a servant’s attitude – where I am here to help and serve you – helps me avoid the feelings of entitlement that afflict some successful entrepreneurs.
  2. Be an optimist and positive. No matter what happens I see no point in wallowing around in despair and negativity. It’s like being in quicksand – no one wants to get in it with us! We want to attract people with whom we can build trust and relationships. That is much easier to do when we are giving off good vibes rather than being a Gloomy Gus.
  3. Avoid the limelight. Have you ever known someone who does nothing but talk about herself/himself? I have been to more than a few cocktail parties where I’ve been cornered by these individuals. And I am reminded how much I do not want to be like them. In fact, I prefer to ask questions about other people and what they do more than I care to talk about myself. It is not that I have anything to hide. I guess it’s just that I was taught as a child that the world doesn’t revolve around me.

When we are genuinely a nice person the odds increase for building a trusting relationship. We can make this happen by thinking of others first; being optimistic and positive, and avoiding the limelight.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The “We Can” Entrepreneur

The space shuttle had approximately 2.5 million moving parts. There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the human brain. There are approximately 2,300,000 stone blocks weighing from two to 30 tons each in the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Chinese Tianhe-2 supercomputer is purportedly the fastest in the world with 33.86 quadrillion of FLOPS (floating-point operations per second).

“That’s really going to be hard.” “I don’t know if we can do that.” Ever heard someone utter these phrases? Sometimes we struggle to get our head around a difficult project or initiative and our default thinking goes to seeing the obstacles rather than the opportunity. This may be especially true for those who are linear thinkers. The obvious cliché here is that of “staying inside the box.” We are stuck in traditional thought patterns and are unable to immediately see the multiple options that exist with nearly every decision that must be made. It does not have to be this way – witness the amazing feats described in building the space shuttle, performing complicated brain surgery, constructing the Great Pyramid and creating the supercomputer.

Every organization needs a combination of linear and abstract thinkers to provide a healthy balance of ideas. Those of us who are extremely creative and can dream in a big way need down-to-earth team members with whom we test our ideas. That said, I am an advocate for the notion that the organizational mindset should be “how we can” as opposed to “why we can’t.”

Here is an example of the “how we can” philosophy. Let’s say that Company A manufactures a particular type of fastener. Business has been growing and then the CEO receives a call from a prospective customer, Company B, indicating that it would like to place an order for fasteners that represents 35% of the company’s production. Company A is operating at full capacity and cannot divert any product away from its steady customers. But the CEO in typical entrepreneurial fashion, isn’t about to tell Company B that he can’t supply the fasteners. When he pulls his team together he could hear a lot of “why we can’t,” or he can challenge his team members to tell him how Company A can meet the current production requirements and also increase production by 35%.

Instilling the “how we can” mindset is not a walk down Pollyanna lane. Instead it involves convincing a team to develop a default perspective of looking around, over and under the obstacles and figuring out what steps can be taken to achieve the goal. We start by creating the path to success. Then we work backwards and look at the risks involved and how to manage them. Perhaps Company A cannot add a second shift to produce the extra fasteners because it does not want to risk having excess labor capacity after the order is filled. But as an alternative, maybe Company C that is not a direct competitor, could “white label” the fasteners and produce them under the watchful eye of Company A. While the profitability may be less by using Company C, Company A may be able to win a new customer in Company B, whose repeat business results in a permanent expansion of production capacity.

It is also important that the entrepreneur not send the signal to his team that “we’re going to make this work come hell or high water.” The danger with plowing ahead is that the more skeptical and cautious members of the team may simply acquiesce rather than express their true opinions. And those who are the natural risk takers may run toward the cliff at full speed without realizing that there’s real pain 400 feet down!

We want to inspire team members to build a “how we can” enterprise. And simultaneously we thoughtfully measure risk and return on investment. The endgame is a dynamic organization that always pushes the boundaries to grow in a healthy fashion.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Entrepreneur’s “Skin”

How’s your skin? Does it fit comfortably? How thick is it? There are a couple of things to know about the skin of successful entrepreneurs. They are usually very comfortable in it and it’s thick as rhinoceros hide. Let’s explore what all of this means.

Our behavior, especially the way we treat other people, is a pretty good indicator of how comfortable we are in our own skin. We’ve all seen the caricature of a hard-driving take-no-prisoners Type A boss. He berates others and makes unreasonable demands. He is completely insensitive to the feelings of those around him and is often loud and boorish. I’m painting a pretty negative picture of this individual to dramatize my point. Such people are often deeply insecure. I’ve gotten to know several people like this. Every one of them has been a good person at heart, but they live in constant fear which adversely impacts their personality. They are afraid of being “found out” – they think that maybe they aren’t as qualified or “together” as the image they are trying to project. They are afraid that at any given moment they might fail at whatever endeavor they are tackling. The tough guy act overcompensates for these insecurities.

We all experience varying degrees of insecurity, but it’s how we deal with it that truly counts. I’ve had many friends and mentees over time that confided that they may be nervous about a particular situation and want my advice on how to handle it. As a seasoned pro when it comes to anxiety, I am able to boost their confidence by saying three simple words . . . “just be yourself.” And what I really mean is just be your true self. Not the mask that is worn and shown to others. Now you might say that this seems like overly simplistic advice. I agree. Just being ourselves is pretty simple. We try to overcomplicate things but it all boils down to this simple premise. I’ve learned how to overcome my anxiety and just be myself by pondering the following question. “Is this a life or death situation?” Fortunately, I’ve always been able to answer “no.” Putting things in this perspective allows me to melt away the insecurity and just be who I am. As long as I’m being myself and maintaining my core values, I really don’t care what others may think. And then the pressure is off.

This brings me to my second “skin” point. Our insecurities mirror the manner in which we are affected by our interactions with others. When we allow ourselves to be hurt, feel slighted or victimized by someone else, it’s a reflection of how secure we are in our own skin. We take a lot of body blows as entrepreneurs. We may or may not get the credit when things go right, but we’re definitely the focal point when things go wrong – our fault or not. The business world is ultra-competitive and not everyone plays fairly. Conflict may erupt within our own organization and it’s up to us to resolve it. Bottom line – there’s a lot of opportunity to personalize the constant hammering to which we are subjected. We develop that suit of armor that gets us through the wars when we are totally comfortable with whom we are. I suppose in a way it’s more like a suit of Teflon™ that deflects the attacks. And perhaps they aren’t really attacking at all if we don’t perceive them as such . . . right?

Being comfortable in our own skin accomplishes two objectives. It enables us to treat others with dignity and respect and it inoculates us from allowing ourselves to be hurt by others. This is a pretty good twofer in my book.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.