Entrepreneurial Legacies

Much has been written about legacies. I would like to explore the topic as well, but with a bit of a different slant. One of the first questions usually asked is, “How do you want to be remembered after you are gone?” Does the name Daniel K. Ludwig mean anything? How about Oliver H. Payne or Donald Fisher? All three of these people were billionaires. Ludwig (1897-1995) was a shipping magnate; Payne (1839-1917) was a partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, and Fisher (1928-2009) co-founded The Gap clothing chain with his wife. The point is that each was a very, very successful and rich man and yet most of us probably never heard of them. So much for wealth being a legacy.

Here is the thing. After we are gone almost every single one of us will not be a passing thought for our descendants, much less for the public in general. Of course, our immediate family will remember us . . . for a while. My dad has been gone since 1988 and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. But I doubt seriously that either of our daughters does. Is this sounding macabre or depressing? It shouldn’t. It is just the way life is. Memories of our walk on this planet are like footprints in the sand. They are there for a fleeting instant and then they are washed away.

I personally don’t care if I’m remembered at all. But here is the silver lining in all of this. We can live on forever through the good work that we do today. A couple of things matter to me the most where legacies are concerned. First, I want to make sure that the companies that I have helped to create exist for the long term. There are hundreds of families whose loved ones are my team members. It is important to me that these families live and thrive long after I am gone. Building a sustainable organization is the linchpin for making this a reality. This means that our corporate infrastructure must be robust; our financial condition strong; our core values are constantly at the forefront, and we remain committed to our long-range vision.

The other aspect of the legacy I wish to leave involves philanthropy. I do not want a building, a street or anything else to be named after me. My wife and I are committed to investing some of our hard-earned dollars in philanthropic causes that help other people. Educational scholarship programs that provide funding in perpetuity are one of the steps we have taken in this regard. Helping other entrepreneurs build their own sustainable companies through mentoring is another passion of mine. And I am not interested in waiting until I die to begin realizing the results of our philanthropic efforts. I want to see the results today – not decades from now after I am dead and gone (and cannot witness the results then anyway!).

The legacy we choose to leave is very personal for each of us. I am not about to pass judgment on these choices. However, one thing that is for certain is that itis unlikely that any of us will be remembered a generation or two after we are gone. So, it probably makes sense to think about making our mark on the future in a way that will be more enduring than our name and our face.

We will be remembered not for who we are today, but for how we benefit mankind tomorrow. The choice is ours whether this memory will be footprints in the sand or permanent steppingstones to a better world.

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 Enamored Entrepreneur

Let me set the scene. You just hired a young new hotshot. This person has had a meteoric career to date, and you spent months recruiting him. He went to Harvard for his undergraduate degree and Stanford for an MBA. Right out of the blocks he has been hitting it out-of-the-park for you. His creativity and innovation are off the charts and he’s a real charmer. Everyone loves him and he is generating one success after another. What a dream situation – right?

There is no doubt that this is a dream situation. However, there’s also danger lurking. Why? Whenever we become enamored with someone, we run the risk of being blind to their shortcomings, and we all have shortcomings. Further we also may not be looking critically for coaching opportunities which shortchanges our new team member. How is it that we smart entrepreneurs fall into this trap? Actually, it is very easy. Perhaps we had a less than satisfactory experience with someone our new hire has replaced. Or we may never have had talent like this in the organization before. It is very refreshing to have a smart person in our midst that can seemingly do no wrong. We never want the honeymoon to end, nor do we want to throw cold water on our new team member, lest we demoralize him or her early in the game.

Over the course of my career I have seen plenty “golden haired boys and girls.” And after a while, the luster wears off a bit. Always. By no means does this indicate that we made a poor hiring decision. Walking in the front door for the first time, seldom is anyone really as good as they may seem – a fact for which we need to be reminded periodically. It is all about setting expectations. On Day One we are well-served to establish an understanding with our new team member whereby we will be providing continuous feedback. This will include both praise as well as constructive coaching. And, we must have a mindset that no matter how wonderful this individual might be, there’s always room to help him or her become better.

Here is how we might create a feedback process that works well for all parties. During the first 90-days we hold a short weekly meeting with our new teammate. We will structure it into four parts. First, we share our positive observations about what this individual has done well during the previous week. If something notable has been accomplished, we celebrate accordingly. Second, we share one or more areas where we would like to see more progress. This does not necessarily mean that we are being critical, but we should not hesitate to offer constructive criticism if warranted. Third, we provide information that may be pertinent for the coming week. Perhaps we want to lay out some new objectives, or maybe there is some company information to be conveyed. Finally, we allow time for our team member to ask questions or offer any observations he or she might have. After 90-days these meetings may be less frequent. The bottom line is that our rising star is conditioned to receiving feedback and we have been able to build a strong relationship from the very beginning.

Maintaining an objective perspective on new team members – especially those who show great promise – will help turn good talent into franchise-quality players. And it helps us remember that we can always be better tomorrow than we were today.

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 Hall of Fame Entrepreneur

“Just concentrate on throwing the ball over the plate rather than breaking the sound barrier and be more varied and selective with your pitches.” That is the advice catcher Norm Sherry gave to future Hall of Fame pitcher, Sandy Koufax, in 1961. Prior to that Koufax had labored through several seasons of mediocre pitching. Once he solved his control problem, he became nearly unhittable striking out 2,396 batters in his relatively short career. Koufax retired from the game in 1967 at age 30. Without a doubt, he went out a winner.

When we think of winning, what comes to mind? Most of us would say that we have achieved the success of victory – that is the obvious answer. But when we’re asked how we won the answer becomes a bit murkier. So, exactly how do we win? Do we simply throw the ball harder than anyone else? Or is there something deeper?

As we study great winners in sports and other walks of life one thing becomes abundantly clear. Great winners are fanatical about the basics and fundamentals of what they do. We have all heard how the basics and fundamentals are the foundational elements to success. And yet many times we just want to swing hard and hit the ball into the left field seats. The result is that we often strikeout. Lesson #1 – we’ll strikeout less and win more if we pay attention to how well we are executing the basics and fundamentals of our game. In business, perhaps we have enjoyed a winning streak lately. Human nature may cause us to take our foot off the accelerator and start enjoying the ride. What happens then? Maybe our winning streak comes to an end. We have not spent the time and energy continuing to cultivate relationships. We are not making the follow-up calls that we used to make. And we aren’t doing the homework necessary to understand what our customers really need and want.

Sandy Koufax would be an anomaly in today’s sports environment. He shunned the spotlight and stayed out of the public eye. He loved violin music – it is said that Mendelsohn was one of his favorite composers. He chose not to chase the money and quit the game rather than risk further injury to an ailing arm. He was his own man which in itself is a special mindset. Lesson #2 – ignoring the noise in the world around us and maintaining our focus puts us on the path to winning.

Winning is seemingly about competing – right? Well, yes and no. If we are out to “beat” someone else the chances are higher that we won’t. In other words, if we become fixated on how to beat the competition, we are really ceding our power to someone else. Why? Because our focus has shifted away from what we need to do to execute in the necessary fashion, and we are now conjuring a methodology that we think will give us a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, we have forgotten that the way we win is to ignore the noise around us and execute our game plan in a flawless manner. Lesson #3 – don’t allow our competition to dictate the terms and conditions for winning.

Zig Ziglar famously said, “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” I used the term “special mindset” in this blog. The only thing special is the absolute, 100% core belief that we deserve to win, and we will win. But there is one more piece to this puzzle. We must relax into winning. If our intensity is too great, we can easily deviate from the basics and fundamentals and overcompensate. I have seen terrific baseball pitchers that start losing because they are so amped up that they try to “throw” the ball and over-control it, rather than relaxing and “pitching” the way they know how. Lesson #4 – to win, we must believe that we will, and we must remain relaxed while doing so.

Winning is a relatively simple formula that involves always executing the basics and fundamentals; ignoring all the noise that is going on around us; playing our game and not trying to beat the competition, and believing without any doubt that we’ll win. Oh, and yes, relax. Putting it altogether ensures that we all will be Hall of Famers in our own right.

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 Mentally Tough Entrepreneur

On May 15, 1963, astronaut Gordon Cooper blasted into space on Mercury-Atlas 9. The Mercury capsule was 10.8 feet long and 6.0 feet wide. The duration was 34 hours and 19 minutes 46 seconds at a maximum velocity of 17,547 miles per hour and an altitude of 166 miles.

Alex Honnold is a world-renowned big wall free solo rock climber. He is particularly famous for climbing Yosemite’s Triple Crown – The Nose (El Capitan), Mt. Watkins and The Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome – completed in 18-hours and 50-minutes. Free solo climbing is done without ropes, pitons, or carabiners.

Navy Commander Jeremiah Denton was a POW in North Vietnam for eight years (1965-1973) four of which were in solitary confinement. He was forced to participate in a 1966 televised press conference during which he blinked the letters T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code. After his release from captivity he retired at the rank of Rear Admiral and became a U.S. senator from Alabama.

What is the common thread that runs through all three of these individuals? Of course, their physical stamina is obvious. But perhaps even more amazing is their mental toughness. I cannot imagine what it would have been like stuck in a tiny Mercury capsule all by myself hurtling through space at an incredible speed. What if something went wrong and I could not get back down? Or how about being 2,300 feet up the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan with no ropes or anchors and suddenly feeling sick? And being tortured and isolated for years in a prison camp is incomprehensible. Without mental grit, think about how easy it would have been to go stark-raving mad in each of these situations and just totally lose it.

Fortunately, as entrepreneurs we are generally not faced with situations that threaten our mortality. But developing a strong mental state is critical to our entrepreneurial success. There are many situations that we encounter that call for mental toughness. If we waver or lose our way, we can lose a whole lot – financially, in terms of relationships, team members and reputation.

Exactly what should we do to become mentally tougher? First, how do we contemplate and deal with failure? Failing is actually a crossroads for us. When something doesn’t work the way we had planned we have a choice to make. We either give up or we get back up and keep trying. Feelings of pain and discomfort create patterns that our brain wants to avoid in the future. True progress is made when we decide to move forward past the pain and into a state of endurance.

Second, we need to identify the self-imposed limitations that hold us back. Do we have routines that have become ruts? If we keep pushing the goal, we achieve real growth. Breaking out of old habits and happily accepting new challenges is mentally stimulating and helps us become conditioned for success. As is always the case, constantly maintaining a positive attitude is an enormous step toward becoming mentally tough.

Finally, we visualize the result then write the script for the journey to get there. Mental toughness cannot be achieved aimlessly. We must have an end game in mind. Gordon Cooper wanted to finish the mission and get home safely. Alex Honnold wanted to get to the summit of El Capitan. Jeremiah Denton wanted to put his feet back on American soil. In each case they had a clear objective and kept it front and center at all times.

To become mentally tough, we embrace failure and use it to create endurance. We discard self-imposed limitations and through positivity, set the table for success. Ultimately, we paint a clear picture of what our success will look like and then execute the strategy and tactics that take us there.

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 Introverted (or Extroverted) Entrepreneur

Are you an “innie or an outie?” And I’m not talking about belly buttons. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Before you answer you should know that there are many common misconceptions about these terms. The famous Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung developed extensive research on this subject. In fact, Jung actually used the term “extravert” instead of “extrovert.” Over the years the word seemed to have morphed into the “extrovert” terminology we use today. So, when you hear these words, what do you think? An introvert is shy, and an extrovert is outgoing? As with many things, this is an oversimplification. Think about how we recharge our batteries. Do you find that you gain renewed energy from being alone in solitude or by being around other people? Technically, introverts seek renewal alone and extroverts recharge through interaction with others. But enough with the technicalities. Let’s explore introversion and extroversion in the more traditional sense.

How can introverts and extroverts survive and thrive with each other? How can an introvert succeed when many situations call for a high degree of sociability and gregariousness? And how do extroverts avoid coming across as a bull in a china shop in situations that need reflection and finesse?

I know a person who has a position that requires considerable interaction with others in a public setting. This individual makes outstanding presentations to large groups of people but struggles mightily with one-on-one interaction. I and others question his genuineness and authenticity as a result of this challenge with his personality. People see him as a masterful “performer” on stage but are frustrated because the “act” does not translate into personal charisma.

For those of us who might find it challenging to engage easily with others, here are some ideas. Step into it. Play offense instead of defense. We can put ourselves in situations where we have the opportunity for interaction. Maybe it is at a conference or a gathering of some sort. We find someone who is not already talking to others and go introduce ourselves. Be strong. The handshake is firm, and we make friendly eye contact. The person I mentioned in the preceding paragraph has a tendency to either avoid eye contact or look over my shoulder. Smile. Always smile. It helps us to put ourselves and others at ease. Relax. Do not try too hard. We just need to be who we are – not someone else. And yes, we can be strong and relaxed at the same time. This actually projects confidence.

On the other end of the spectrum some of us may be somewhat supercharged with extroversion. In certain situations, this can be overwhelming to others and can come across in a high-pressure salesman manner. Of course, we do not want to be perceived this way. Many extroverts have a great deal of nervous energy and perhaps even a touch (or mega dose) of ADHD. This reflects in their speech patterns and mannerisms.

As extroverts we need to work to “dial it back” at times. Zip it. We may tend to dominate conversations. Instead, we need to make a concerted effort to create a dialogue where we make sure that others have a chance to express themselves. Chill. Somehow, we must resist the urge to outwardly manifest all the energy that is pent-up inside. Calm. We need to replace the pent-up energy with calmness. Do not worry; our charisma is so strong that we won’t be seen as a shrinking violet. Smile. A friendly smile is disarming and sends positive vibes to others. As extroverts we may tend to be too intense. Remembering to always smile will put others at ease.

Introverts and extroverts must make a mutual effort to co-exist and collaborate. When they succeed, they can do great things together.

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 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.