An Entrepreneur’s Primer

Here are 13 concepts by which I live. They are my guideposts and serve as an Entrepreneur’s Primer. They’ve worked well for me and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. Live today like you’re going to die tomorrow. It’s impossible to know when our “number” will be called. Why waste a single moment on that which is unproductive? And make sure to appreciate those whom you love – you will have regrets after they are gone if you take them for granted.
  2. What you think, will become reality. People who always have a positive mindset produce positive results and live a happy life. We can stack the deck in our favor if we train ourselves to reject negativity. Just as importantly, we don’t allow negative people to be a part of our lives. Our mind is more powerful than we can imagine and we can use it to shape an amazing present and future.
  3. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. These are the famous words of Winston Churchill and they ring true as much today as they did in the darkest hours of World War II. The key to perseverance is to make constant tweaks and pivots until what we are striving to accomplish actually manifests.
  4. Don’t take risk . . . manage risk. Taking risk is like gambling. Our businesses and our lives are too valuable to be betting the farm on Red 32. Instead, we identify the risks and create strategies to contain and mitigate them. Then we can proceed to launch new initiatives without fear.
  5. Laugh every chance you get . . . especially at yourself. It has been proven scientifically that laughter is healthy. Laughing many times every day is good for establishing a positive mindset. When we laugh at ourselves and can be self-deprecating, we show others that we are comfortable in our own skin.
  6. What you give will come back to you in amazing ways. We give because it makes others feel good and us too. And when we give without quid pro quo for the simple joy of giving, our life is fuller and richer. We also remember that gratitude is part of this equation and express our thanks to many people as often as we can.
  7. March to your own tune, but do so with purpose. We avoid the herd mentality and are proud of our individuality. But we don’t do so simply to be different. We do so because we have a strong set of core values and a clear vision for our future. We aren’t worried about what others think so long as we aren’t stepping on their toes.
  8. Mistakes are simply the unfinished experiments in the laboratory of life. I love this one! There’s no way to know if we are on the right track unless mistakes are made. If everything is too perfect, then it’s likely we aren’t stretching ourselves to be better. Rather than obsess over our mistakes, we figure out what there is to learn from them and then start a new experiment.
  9. Creativity is a way to express your passion. And passion allows you to see in color. Each of us has a creative streak – it may be buried deeper in some of us, but we all have the ability to innovate in some way. Amazing and wonderful things can come about as a result of the creative process and it’s likely that our passion will be stoked. Life is full of sunshine and light when our creativity is off-the-charts.
  10. The success of a career can be measured in the number of lasting relationships that have been collected and nurtured. I see relationship building as an opportunity to serve. When we are always looking to help others in a genuine manner without the thought of receiving anything in return, we move beyond the transactional aspects of an acquaintance into a true relationship. Putting Good out into the world through service is the Law of Attraction – and in turn, we will attract Good into our lives.
  11. Balance your life – emotionally, intellectually, financially, physically, spiritually and with your family. This one can be tough, especially if we really, really love our entrepreneurial adventure. Here’s a secret. Having this sort of balance has a giant payday. It helps us to avoid burnout and sets the foundation for greater stimulation of our creativity. Besides, who wants to be around a one-dimensional person anyway?
  12. Help others buy your ideas. Do we sell our products and services, or do we help others buy them? There is a massive distinction between the two. Helping someone buy is “customer-centric” and selling to someone is “product-centric.” We will have much more success if we focus on the customer and his or her needs. It’s quite possible our product or service isn’t right for him/her – and that’s just fine. We can then move on to help someone else with the buying decision.
  13. You can’t do this all by yourself. Develop a support network of colleagues, friends and family. Being an entrepreneur can be a pretty lonely proposition. Being able to share success and failure with others is important to our mental and emotional health. Our friends and family provide safe refuge to which we can turn whenever needed. There is nothing gained by being the macho Lone Ranger . . . except loneliness.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 90 – The Few, the Proud.

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.

Entrepreneur concept with young woman reaching and looking upwards

Overflowing

We entrepreneurs have much for which to be grateful. As I write this at the beginning of 2018, what better way to start a new year than to express gratitude? We have been blessed with so much and it’s helpful and healthy to reflect on these blessings.

I am grateful for my wife of more than 44 years and all of her love and support through the peaks and valleys of our lives. I am grateful for our daughters and how they have become great mothers to our three beautiful grandchildren. I am grateful to my son-in-law for the way he has become a terrific father. I am grateful to my parents who chose me through an adoption process and gave me an amazing childhood. I am grateful to my sister for so many things, but especially the way she cared for our mother before she died. I am grateful to our many friends who have joined us over the decades in countless moments of laughter and joy.

I am grateful that I learned to play the piano when I was young for it paved the way for me to type and be very efficient on the computer keyboard today. I am grateful that my parents helped me become a disciplined young man through many hours of piano and clarinet practice, as well as assigning me family responsibilities and holding me accountable accordingly. I am grateful that I was able to play basketball as a youngster and for the various summer jobs that taught me how to work hard and save money. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be a Boy Scout and all of the experiences that led to my Eagle award. I am grateful for having grown up in a small college town that was safe and offered a myriad of productive activities for a young person in the 1950s and 1960s.

I am grateful to my partner who gave me the opportunity nearly 43 years ago to become a part of a quality organization, and then let me spread my wings and soar. I am grateful to my other partner of nearly 22 years who has taught me empathy and understanding. I am grateful to the other senior leaders of our various companies who are helping to build a strong and sustainable culture. I am grateful to the hundreds of team members who advance our cause every hour of every day. I am grateful for the opportunity to use our platform to create and innovate. And I am grateful that our entrepreneurial endeavor has allowed me to live my “Why” which is to make sense of complexity.

I am also grateful for my physical health and the fact that I have few maladies for a person my age. I am especially grateful to each of my health care providers who have supported me in achieving great health. I am grateful that I have all of my mental faculties which enable me to read, write and think about the wonderful world in which we live.

I am grateful for having the honor of helping a number of mentees grow their businesses over the years. I am grateful for being invited to serve on different boards and various search committees. I am grateful for the young people who have participated in a university teacher’s scholarship program that my wife and I started in 1999. Many of them have now gone on to touch the lives of so many others as teachers.

I am grateful for having been able to earn an income that has provided a comfortable lifestyle. I am grateful to be able to travel throughout the country and abroad. I am grateful for my various hobbies including publishing this blog and recording a podcast – and of course I’m grateful to each of you who reads and listens.

I am grateful for my positive and optimistic outlook on life. I am grateful for my resilience and perseverance. I am grateful to be able to say that I have no real regrets, nor have I ever done anything to intentionally hurt someone else. I am grateful that I have a strong moral compass and that I can continue to explore my spirituality. I am grateful to all of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for my freedom and for all of the first responders that stand ready to assist when needed.

My list could go on and on, so please don’t take offense if I didn’t make reference to you. It’s exhilarating to become immersed in gratitude and realize that our lives have been shaped by so many other people. I’m betting that you could also identify much for which you are grateful. To that end, let’s all be grateful for a Happy New Year!

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 78 – Oatmeal on the Floor.

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.

Robin, the Hamster

Robin goes to work every day at the consumer products company where she has been employed for the past two years. She faithfully performs her roles and accountabilities and has received relatively high marks from her supervisor. In fact, she has never taken a sick day and is proud of the fact that she’s never missed a day of work other than scheduled holidays and vacations. But recently, Robin has begun to feel more and more like she’s on a hamster wheel. She believes her compensation is relatively fair and she likes what she does. However she often wonders about what she might be missing at another firm.

Robin is feeling unappreciated and undervalued. No one has been disrespectful or mean to her, so that’s not the problem. More than anything no one outside of her operating unit seems to really care whether she’s part of the team or not. It’s this level of apathy that’s eating at her. She sees the “big boss” almost every day, but he’s never once spoken to her. She rationalizes this by acknowledging that there are over 1,000 employees in the company and it’s impossible for him to know everyone. Still, her accomplishments are seemingly unnoticed and taken for granted.

The scenario just described is repeated countless times every single day across a wide spectrum of companies – large and small. There are multiple studies showing that feeling valued is more important to many people than what they are paid. And this is not a problem that is easily solved with a large company event, a cruise or other significant activity. No, our team members need to feel valued on a regular and ongoing basis.

Leaders need to understand that helping others to feel appreciated and valued is one of the most important functions we can perform. It requires a genuine and authentic mindset that we are here to serve. Yes, you read that correctly. We are servant-leaders. The objective is to look for every way we can to make others feel important and fulfilled. It’s not a mindset that we can turn on and off depending upon who we encounter. We can start creating this mindset by trying to find something good and positive about every situation and everyone. When we are served in a restaurant, we can call the server by name and tell him or her what great service was provided. In public spaces there are always people cleaning the floors or polishing the glass. We can compliment them on how they are creating a sparkling appearance.

We continue to practice our appreciative mindset at our workplace. We make certain to greet everyone we walk by and call them by name. We go out of our way to acknowledge the efforts of others and thank them for their contribution. As leaders, it’s our job to encourage other leaders to create a culture of gratitude.

An initiative we launched several years ago involves sending a letter to each of our team members on their work anniversary. It’s a form letter that changes annually and is signed by me as the CEO. But we’ve taken it a step further. A spreadsheet is created onto which is recorded comments about each team member’s accomplishments provided by his or her supervisor. Toward the bottom of the letter I hand write a personal note – several sentences – citing these individual accomplishments and thanking the team member for being a part of the team. I write several hundred of these every year and can tell you that it’s one of the high points of my month. I also call team members when I hear about exceptional performance and express my appreciation for their service.

It’s equally important for our team to feel as though their input is needed. Mandates from on high are sometimes necessary, but soliciting feedback from team members and involving them in the decision making process whenever possible promotes buy-in. And we need to make sure when people speak that we listen and act accordingly. There are many great ideas and practical solutions that can be accessed from such a collaborative approach.

Acknowledging value and showing respect starts at the top of an organization. If the executive leadership doesn’t incorporate this as part of the cultural fabric, it’s not likely that it will be a priority for others either. If the “big boss” would simply say hello to Robin and show a little interest in her and what she does, it’s unlikely that she would feel the way she does.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 67 – PM.

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.

Death, Taxes and . . .

We’ve always been told that there are no guarantees in life except death and taxes. I submit that there is one more guarantee that’s much more pleasant. We can be guaranteed that every day will be a good day . . . if we make it so. How? Read on.

Whether our day is good or bad depends upon our state of mind. By extension, we make the choice as to whether or not we will generally be happy in life. Being an entrepreneur is a tough gig. There are plenty of obstacles – way too many to list here. We can allow these obstacles to eventually overwhelm us, or we can look at them as opportunities for growth and success. But how do we get our mind right to look at our challenges this way? Here are some ideas that work for me in guaranteeing that every day is going to be a good day and that I’m able to be happy about my life overall.

Smile before answering or making a phone call. Smiling helps to release neuropeptides that counteract stress. Also, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin all go to work when we smile. So there is a positive physiological reaction to smiling that can’t be ignored. And no doubt the conversation will be more pleasant and may result in a positive outcome – all because of a smile.

You know all those e-mails we send every day? We probably send too many because it’s such an efficient way to communicate. Yet, I find life can be pretty dull if we just keep to ourselves. I like to convert some of my e-mail conversations into face-to-face meetings or phone calls. I also find it hard to build relationships exclusively via e-mail. Thus, I build stronger relationships with the personal touch and it makes me feel good to have human interaction throughout the day.

Express gratitude every single day. We have so much for which to be thankful. My day is more fulfilling when I tell someone how much I appreciate them and what they are doing. Gratitude helps me to feel more optimistic and contributes to building stronger interpersonal relationships.

Become centered. Life moves at warp speed for most of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and all of a sudden things can spin out of control. Spending a few moments from time-to-time with deep breathing and visualization exercises helps to ground me and restores my calm.

I was a Boy Scout and we committed to doing a good deed every day. I know it’s going to be a good day when I do something for someone else and am rewarded with their smile. This can be as little as holding the door for another person or helping someone put their bag in the overhead compartment on an airplane.

If exercise isn’t part of your daily routine it’s certainly worthy of consideration. A good morning workout and long walk set a pattern for the day. I feel great after sweating and burning calories. I’m able to control my weight as well as ward off stress through physical activity.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. One of the healthiest things we can do – multiple times each day – is to laugh. And if we can laugh at ourselves, that’s even better. As with smiling, laughing offers innumerable health benefits and it’s usually the result of something funny. When we take ourselves too seriously we may become self-conscious and begin to doubt ourselves.

Do at least one creative thing every day. But I’m not a creative person you say. That’s beside the point. We all have the ability to be creative at some level. Find something large or small where we can stretch our minds in a creative fashion. And guess what, you’ll find a nugget of good somewhere in the process.

Finally, be present. This can be very hard for us as entrepreneurs when we’re caught up in the fast-paced life we lead. It’s been my experience that I make fewer mistakes (that can erode the feelings of a good day) when I focus on the moment. Maybe that’s concentrating on a task at hand or something as simple as giving my full attention to someone with whom I’m meeting.

Yes, every day is guaranteed to be a good day if we take the necessary steps to make it happen. I can’t wait for my feet to hit the floor each morning because I’m stacking the deck in favor of this guarantee!

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 41 – To Proposition or Not to Proposition?

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.

Up and to the Right

Tyler is an entrepreneur. He runs a small but growing company that recycles old computer equipment. Tyler is very frustrated right now. Marie is a stay-at-home mom. She has two small children under the age of five and produces marketing materials for three companies, working from a spare bedroom. Marie is very frustrated right now. Why are Tyler and Marie so frustrated?

Tyler’s company has been growing at a rate of 25% a year for the past three years. He’s doubled the size of his team and his margins are increasing. If you looked at a graph depicting his business, the line would be up and to the right.

Marie has two beautiful and healthy children. Her husband is a physician and the family is financially secure. Her marketing venture is flourishing. She’s landed a new client each of the last three years and the type of work has become much more substantive. By all measures, Marie’s graph looks the same as Tyler’s – up and to the right.

Why in the world would these two individuals be so frustrated? Tyler has chosen to reinvest a major portion of his profits back into his company. As a result, he hasn’t seen his personal cash flow increase in any meaningful way. Intellectually he knows he’s doing fine, but it still rankles him that his bank balance has remained fairly static.

Marie loves her marketing business and she is ecstatic over motherhood. She worries that her two primary roles may someday collide (at times they already do) and she feels guilty that she may fail to do justice with either. Marie wonders how she can possibly achieve her personal and professional goals with the juggling act that she is managing.

Here’s a simple but powerful truth. Tyler and Marie have not yet learned how to celebrate their success. To those of us looking in from the outside it would appear that these two are ideally situated. Everything seems “up and to the right” for them and yet they are frustrated. Tyler and Marie are trapped in the tunnel of limited thinking. They have set lofty expectations for themselves – both in terms of what they want to achieve and how quickly this will happen. How many entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs do you know who are suffering the same plight? What can be done to break this negative-mind cycle?

If we were coaching Tyler and Marie we would tell them to become quiet for a few minutes and clear their minds. Then we would suggest that they “go to gratitude.” That would involve creating an inventory of all that in their lives for which they are grateful. Going to gratitude helps them get out of themselves and see beyond the tunnel walls of their frustration. And it’s a way to re-set the mind in a positive manner. In fact, we would advise Tyler and Marie to use the gratitude exercise in the future whenever they feel frustration welling up.

As armchair coaches we would next encourage Tyler and Marie to discover how to celebrate their successes – no matter how large or small. Sometimes we have a tendency to singularly focus only on the BHAGs – Big Hairy Audacious Goals – that we have set, and we fail to see the progress we are making along the way. Tyler and Marie need to re-pattern their thinking to be able to see the smaller achievements that occur every day and intentionally celebrate them. One of Tyler’s team members earned a difficult industry certification. Tyler celebrated this success with a pizza party and some congratulatory remarks. When his company recycled its 10,000th CPU, he walked into the middle of the warehouse and rang a big brass bell. He left the bell there to be used as future milestones are realized.

When Marie’s four year-old daughter read her first book Marie took her out for a special lunch and lavished her daughter with praise and encouragement. One of Marie’s clients entered her brochure in a regional marketing contest and it won first place. Marie celebrated her accomplishment by laminating the brochure cover onto a plaque along with her award. She hung it in her home office to remind her that she does really fine work.

We all need to learn to celebrate our successes no matter the size. And going to gratitude helps us to break out of the tunnel of limited thinking. This puts us on the path to appreciate each and every day as one filled with joy and promise.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 34 – A Road Less Traveled.

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.

economics

Who Is Dan Meyer?

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’ve 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’s harder and hard to get out of bed. We’re 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 don’t have scientific proof, I believe we enter a slump as a result of negative thinking. We’re 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. Which 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 doesn’t 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’re 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’s 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 of the good that is in our life.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 1 – False Choices.

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.

Dan Meyer

Celebritude!

As I write this it’s just days before the end of the year. It’s a time of rest and reflection. It’s a time of excitement for the New Year ahead. And it’s a time for celebration and gratitude – Celebritude! What is Celebritude?

Celebritude is a celebration of gratitude. Think about all for which we can be grateful. It’s not very hard, is it? Hopefully we’ve been acknowledging our gratitude throughout the year. After all, we know that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is part of the giving and receiving equation that enriches our lives. But we can do more in the gratitude department by creating “Celebritude.”

Celebritude is a time to think about those who have been particularly instrumental in supporting us and helping to make our lives better. Was there a teacher who inspired us during our early years? Perhaps there was a mentor somewhere along the way. How about a friend who lent a sympathetic ear during tough times? Maybe a colleague encouraged us to step up and do something we never thought we could do. And of course there may be a spouse or significant other who always believed in us.

To create Celebritude we must intentionally inventory those seminal figures that have helped shape our lives in positive ways. Then we take the opportunity to celebrate them and all that they have meant to us. There are many ways to do this. For example we could write a heartfelt letter to that teacher expressing our appreciation for his or her inspiration so many years ago. We might make a charitable contribution in the name of the mentor we appreciate so much. Dinner at a nice restaurant for that fabulous friend who has been so encouraging could be a perfect expression of gratitude. A nice gift might be appropriate for that colleague who challenged us to stretch ourselves and be better. And maybe we could take a special trip to say thank you to the spouse or significant other who has stood by our side through thick and thin.

When we create Celebritude we amp-up the gratitude process. It grounds us in the knowing that others have lifted us up and helped to propel us forward throughout our lives. By celebrating our gratitude for these wonderful souls we open a major channel of positive energy that benefits others as well as ourselves. And we can continue to live in Celebritude by paying it forward. Now, we can become that significant benefactor in someone else’s life by providing inspiration, support, mentorship, challenges and love.

The creation of Celebritude can be life changing for us and for others. Truly celebrating our gratitude brings a new level of momentum to the positive energy in which we thrive.

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.

Celebration