Goody Two-Shoes

Gil Penchina is a 20-year angel investor in start-up companies. He was one of the earliest members of the eBay team and has invested in unicorn companies such as LinkedIn, Dollar Shave Club, PayPal and Cruise Automotive. I heard him tell a fascinating story about what he sometimes does when he’s traveling. He posts on Facebook that he’ll be away and offers his apartment to whoever wants it. Total strangers are often staying in his apartment – and have been identified not through a formal Airbnb arrangement! He’s done this 15 or 20 times and simply asks that the apartment be left clean and the bed linens and towels put in the washing machine. Only once has he been burned and that was by one of his cousins. Why would he do this? As Gil tells it, he believes that people are inherently good and he doesn’t believe they will harm his property.

How many times do we “look for trouble?” Do we have expectations that someone is going to try and take advantage of us? I’ve known many people who always have their guard up. They truly believe that if they don’t aggressively take protective action that they are going to be screwed. I’ve worked with people who spend more time trying to figure out how they are getting the short-end of the stick in a transaction than time spent figuring out how to optimize the deal. Guess what? This mindset can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I believe as does Gil, that most of us operate in good faith. Sure there are bad people in the world – I’m not naïve enough to deny this. But the number is infinitesimally small and I will do nothing to seek them out. I’ve said it many times that I’m going to put as much Good out into the world with no expectation of getting anything in return. What I’ve always found is that Good comes back to me, often beyond my wildest dreams. While there’s no quid pro quo for specific actions, I know that as I am doing Good, I will attract Good into my life. This is applicable to business, personal relationships, our health and all other facets of our existence.

Let’s be clear about something. This isn’t about blithely skipping down Candy Cane Lane oblivious to obstacles and pitfalls. When we believe in all Good, we manage risk such that we aren’t worried about bad things happening. Why? Because we have a mitigation plan in place that we methodically work through if the unexpected occurs. Simply planning for risks does not mean we think they will come to fruition. It gives us the peace of mind to know that we can successfully deal with them and allows us to devote our time and energy to the positive aspects of whatever we are doing.

In my 42+-year career I can count on one hand the number of times someone has maliciously taken advantage of me. Conversely, I know many business people who are constantly embroiled in lawsuits and always complaining about how awful others are to deal with. I guess I must be running in the wrong circles because I just haven’t encountered that many of those kinds of people.

A number of years ago we were purchasing an apartment property and placed a large amount of earnest money in escrow. During our due diligence process we found some issues that were unacceptable and we informed the seller that we were cancelling the contract. The seller wanted to fight over returning our earnest money and we spent a few dollars on lawyers before settling with him. He received less than 50% of the earnest money and we moved on. All of us believed that the seller was acting in bad faith and we could have endured a long protracted legal battle and won. But to do this would have required a huge expenditure of negative energy and prevented us from pursuing other positive opportunities. It turned out to be a minor blip in our process and was soon forgotten.

The Law of Attraction is a powerful force in our lives. When we think positive thoughts and do good things for others, we attract the same for ourselves. Negative thoughts and negative actions are also attractors. The choice is pretty easy to make.

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 59 – Mousetraps Squared.

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.

After the Love Has Gone

Earth, Wind & Fire recorded a song in 1979 called, After the Love Has Gone. And of course there was the classic 1976 tune by KISS, Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. There’s an eerie parallel with these titles and our relationships – with our friends and with our customers. Remember when we were growing up? Most of us had a number of friends during our school years. Then we launched our careers and families, and guess what? Many of those friendships went on hold. We found ourselves burning the candle at both ends and struggling to make the kids’ soccer games, juggle business trips with date nights, and generally keep our heads above water. Sound familiar? Gradually we sort of drifted away from all but a very small, close-knit group of friends. If we are introspective about our entrepreneurial lives, is the same thing happening with our business relationships?  

I’ve written before about my philosophy on relationships. I want to build and nurture as many relationships as possible over the course of my career for the purpose of serving them. And I’ve said before that I try to do this without any sense of quid pro quo. Deep at my core I believe that if we are truly committed to serving our relationships in whatever way possible, the Law of Attraction will bring great good into our lives.

So what happens after the sale? We work hard for six months (sometimes much longer) to build a relationship with a prospective customer. Then she buys what we’re selling. We’re elated and we make sure that the product or service is delivered in fine fashion. Then what? Six months later, what have we done to maintain the relationship? If the customer is going to buy our product or service on a recurring basis, chances are that we’ll stay in touch and continue “selling.” Maybe we take the customer to a ballgame or out for dinner. But what about a customer that has purchased something and there’s virtually no chance that another purchase will occur in the future? Do we “love ‘em and leave ‘em?

It’s rare that we find an entrepreneur who builds the relationship for the purpose of serving it. Usually there are strings attached. I’ve been on the receiving end of this my entire life. When someone wants to sell me something they butter me up and shower me with accolades, gifts and other forms of attention. If I don’t buy, they may try for a while, but eventually they drift away. If I do buy and there’s not a reason to buy the same product or service again, I’m usually dropped like a hot potato within a week. The National Sales Executive Association says that 80% of sales are made on the fifth through the twelfth contact. This means that a significant amount of time and effort must be invested to build a relationship sufficient to close the deal. This being the case, why would we not want to continue to maintain that relationship in perpetuity?

Some of us may be thinking, “This makes sense. Even though the customer might not buy again from us, keeping the relationship alive could be good for referrals.” Yes, this may be true, BUT once again we’ve attached strings to the relationship. What if we maintained the relationship because it’s the right thing for us to do? What if we maintained the relationship because we genuinely want to help other people? What if we maintained the relationship because it’s a form of expressing gratitude for all of the wonderful things that others have done for us? If we’re thinking that we just don’t have time to nurture relationships after the sale, then we are working against the Law of Attraction. There’s good flowing all around us – but if we start putting limits on our relationships we’re preventing that good from flowing our way.

Maintaining friendships and business relationships requires an intentional effort. It also means that we have to make a choice about the true purpose of such relationships. Will it be “Get Off of My Cloud” (Rolling Stones – 1965) or “Better Together” (Jack Johnson – 2005)?

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 11 – A Warm Blanket.

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.

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The Rose Colored Glasses

Question: Sometimes it seems like the deck is stacked against me. I’m pretty sure I’m doing everything right but I just can’t win. Do you believe in bad luck?

Answer: I’m sure that you already know that there’s really no such thing as luck – good or bad. But I certainly understand how it can seem that way. Actually, what we think of as luck is simply the foundation that we lay for ourselves every single day. How? Through our thoughts, words and deeds we are creating a pattern of cause and effect, also known as the Law of Attraction.

Here’s the reality of it all. The little things that we think and the little actions that we take are recorded in our psyche. How many times have you thought to yourself, “there’s no way I could (fill in the blank here)?” How many times have you said something like, “I should call that CEO who just announced a major expansion in his company, but he probably wouldn’t return my call?” These may seem like they are harmless and fleeting thoughts . . . but they aren’t. What we really are doing is affirming a pattern of negativity in our lives.

Metaphorically speaking, we entrepreneurs live a rough-and-tumble life. There are plenty of knocks and countless challenges. Why make things tougher than they already are with negative thought patterns? In my company I am often teased for what many think is my rose-colored view of the world. That used to bother me. I guess I equated it to naiveté. The older and wiser I’ve become I realize that what some consider a rose-colored view is actually a reflection of the choice I’ve made to try and look at everything in positive terms. In so doing, I’ve patterned my psyche to draw positivity into my life. What a liberating feeling it is to not recognize bad luck because it does not exist for me! Do I encounter obstacles along the way? Of course – but I have chosen not to see them as bad luck or insurmountable. Instead they are opportunities for creativity and growth.

So, you too can start the process of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. Begin by catching yourself every time you notice a negative thought creep into your mind or a negative word cross your lips. Remind yourself that you are on a different mission now. Replace it with a positive thought. The more you can do this the more your “luck” will change for the better. And eventually you won’t want to ever remove your rose-colored glasses.

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.