The Fulfillment-Focused Entrepreneur

I don’t want our customers to be satisfied. Put another way, customer satisfaction is not our objective. I also don’t want our team members to be satisfied. There, I have said it. I will bet you are thinking that there is a punchline somewhere in all of this. And yes, there is. But let’s dig a bit deeper before getting to the bottom line.

When we serve others, we certainly want them to be satisfied – right? This seems like a perfectly rational objective because we all know what happens when a customer or team member is dissatisfied. So, when a customer (or team member) makes a request, we do our best to satisfy that request. We generally believe that when someone is satisfied, they are happy. Here is an interesting dilemma. Suppose we have done everything we can to satisfy our customer; they tell us they are happy, but then they quit anyway. What is up with that?

One of our companies is involved in managing apartment properties for our own account and for third-party clients as well. I can remember several times over the past many years that a long-time client told us he was perfectly satisfied with our service, only to make a change and hire another firm. We were assured that we had done nothing wrong and other circumstances stimulated the change. In some cases, the client was consolidating the management of all his properties with a national property management firm. In another instance we were told that the client had a relationship with another company and though he was satisfied with our performance, he thought he might do better with the other firm. Naturally, there is a strong level of disappointment when we hear that someone is satisfied and yet they are still making a change. What in the world are we to do?

OK, here comes the punchline. Customer satisfaction is not enough. Team member satisfaction is not enough. Customers and team members leave even when they are completely satisfied. Attempting to achieve customer and team member satisfaction is a siren song that will lure us into the rocks and sink our ship. Instead, we need to focus on fulfillment. Fulfillment is a much higher state than satisfaction. It is a concept that is like exceeding expectations but is even more than that. Trust me – you will not get any help from the dictionary on this one. It says that to fulfill is to satisfy. I think the dictionary’s definition misses a very important nuance here.

Suppose an apartment resident calls and reports that her kitchen faucet is dripping. If our maintenance technician goes to her apartment and completes the repair, then he has satisfied her request. However, if he goes and fixes the faucet, and then checks several other physical elements in her apartment and fixes other items that he finds, then we are moving toward a level of fulfillment for the customer. Total fulfillment comes when there is nothing else a customer could possibly want or need, even if he or she has not articulated it. In other words, we have anticipated every possible scenario that could impact the customer and we have taken all the steps we could to resolve unforeseen issues and create an over-the-top experience. This was what was missing when we lost a client who told us he was satisfied. We had not gone above and beyond to create the over-the-top experience that achieved total fulfillment.

Customers and team members leave or quit all the time when they are satisfied. Usually it is because they are not aware of a better alternative. But when that better mousetrap is presented to them it is not hard to understand their motivation for making a change. Changing our focus from satisfaction to fulfillment increases the odds in our favor that we possess the better mousetrap.

Achieving fulfillment for our customers and team members requires a combination of commitment, innovation, understanding, vigilance, appreciation, and gratitude. Fulfillment is the best mousetrap in today’s highly competitive entrepreneurial environment.

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 “No Assholes Allowed” Entrepreneur

Life is full of contrasts which span our personal and professional lives. Happy and sad. Victory and defeat. Sunny and rainy. Dogs and cats. Assholes and angels. Wait a minute – assholes and angels! What the heck?

As humans we have a lot of issues. Sometimes we are able to deal with these issues and at other times we are not. When we are successful in meeting our challenges, we tend to be more measured and pleasant. But when these challenges become seemingly insurmountable brick walls there is a chance that our personality changes – and not for the better. Feelings of insecurity and inferiority may manifest through biting and snide remarks, ugly facial expressions, or downright hostility.

A guy walks into McDonald’s and orders lunch. He just was chewed out by a client and he is not a happy camper. The person taking his order is a little slow or distracted and he snaps, “Your service is terrible.” Obviously, he is well on his way to winning friends and influencing people. Angelic behavior? Probably just the opposite. Little encounters like this happen all the time. Unfortunately, when unchecked, a pattern develops where lashing out in this manner can become a habit.

In an entrepreneurial organization rudeness and disrespect cause a great deal of tension. It produces negative energy, creates conflict, and can destroy the chemistry of a team. Leaders who ignore it are giving implicit approval of the perpetrators. It is one thing for there to be disagreements between team members. This can be a healthy process toward a successful result. But when the disagreements turn uncivil and personal the healthy part of the process has come to an end.

I have a pretty high tolerance factor for dissent. I encourage my colleagues to offer different opinions and ideas. And I don’t mind a lively discussion that stimulates new ways of thinking. However, I have been told that there are times when others begin to feel uncomfortable because of the intensity of some conversations. The line may have been crossed where the comments have become too biting and even personal. So, I am learning how to interrupt such situations and nip them in the bud before they digress into the world of the unproductive.

This all easily translates into one very simple premise. There is no place for a$$holes – anywhere in life. When unacceptable behavior is observed it needs to be stopped immediately. If there are several team members present it may be best to take a break in the meeting and consult with the offender in a one-on-one manner. There is nothing gained by embarrassing an individual publicly. Everyone has a bad day once in a while and a kind and empathetic word may be all that is necessary to diffuse a brewing tempest and prevent it from escalating.

It is much more troublesome when a member of the team has become a chronic asshole. Such a person may walk around with a permanent scowl on his or her face. Colleagues may go out of their way to avoid this individual. No one looks forward to meetings that include him or her, and encounters with this person often end with feelings of hurt, anger or humiliation. Chronic assholes must be dealt with swiftly and firmly. As soon as it becomes apparent that this person has chronic issues, he or she must be advised that his/her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When this person is a high performer it makes dealing with him/her that much more difficult. But for the sake of the team action must be taken including removal from the team as a last resort.

Life (and business) is tough enough without having to contend with assholes. Dispensing with such behavior as soon as possible will help restore the equilibrium of a team.

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 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.