The Life Of An Entrepreneur In 90 Pages

Entrepreneur Book Cover- Front Only

This new book started with a viral video.

Viral videos are like tornadoes. They are not planned as much as they simply happen with colossal and exciting effect when the conditions are right.  In mid-October 2015 Patrick Bet-David wanted to communicate a message about entrepreneurs and decided to create a video titled “The Life of an Entrepreneur in 90 Seconds” You can see that video here.
The original intent was to share a compelling and emotional glimpse into the story behind the average entrepreneur. Many people see the end product and have no idea what it takes to get there. These people have not been exposed to the process and it’s a life that some people probably don’t want to see because it’s messy – yet also very rewarding.
Roughly an hour after posting the video on Facebook, it had gone over 50,000 views.  The next morning, it had crossed over 2,000,000 views, and just hours later it was deep into the millions, and everyone knew it was viral. By the end of the weekend it had hit 15,000,000 and today, in mid-2016, it has amassed over 27,000,000 views and it is still viewed thousands of times each day.

Why did such a simple video receive such an overwhelming response?

There are many reasons – but the best answer seems to be that the video captured the simple truth and wrapped it in an emotional story in which everyone can relate. We all know failure. We all understand challenges. We all have experienced some little victories in life here-n-there even if our life has had its share of tragedies and isn’t much to talk about at the moment. Everyone seemed to’get’ the video in some way from some angle even if it was an deep yearning covered in tears from inside themselves that merely cried out, “Someday…”

Along the way, thousands of people (maybe you) asked if the story and concepts in the video could be captured in a book that people could use to build their own personal plan – a compass of what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

Patrick thought that was a good idea… and I was privileged to co-author it with him.  Patrick and I are proud to announce that its launch today at Amazon.com.  You can buy it here.

9 Things Successful People Do Differently

Book CoverSimple truths tend to ring loudest.  Such is the case with Heidi Grant Halvorson’s simple book 9 Things Successful People Do Differently.  It’s not an exhaustive tome by any means but it is a very accessible and applicable read in the same lane occupied by the timeless One Minute Manager.

It’s not often my daughter encourages ME to write about a business topic.  Particularly because she is in 4th grade.  Nonetheless, she did.  The journey started exactly a year ago when I gave her a copy of Halvorson’s little red book to read on a flight from LAX to DFW.  It looked like an interesting title on the habits of successful people and it appeared accessible for my 8-year old who sits in a 3rd grade classroom M-F while reading and engaging on a 7th grade level.  (She’s still a bit young for Blue Ocean, but I have a copy on stand-by – ha, ha)  Also, the author being a woman gave me the opportunity to reinforce the vision I have consistently shared with my daughter: You are among a new generation of women that will make an even greater impact in life and business as the male dominated world evolves.  So I handed her the book and off we flew.

I was and I wasn’t prepared for the response.  At the end of each chapter she talked to me a bit about the core point and I asked her a couple questions which led to more discussion followed by me encouraging her to make a note or two in the book itself at the end of each chapter.   The surprising angle, which should not be so surprising, was that she related each chapter’s core point to the context in which she lives.  In chapter 5 Halvorson describes getting better rather than being good.  My daughter related this to reading.  She measures the number of words she reads and set a goal to read 2 million words in 3rd grade, which she achieved.  Without my prompting she explained how she can ONLY get better at reading.  She noted that CAN’T merely get good at it because her school won’t let her.  How?  Well, upon achieving a new reading level, the instructors praise the student appropriately and promptly move the finish line to the next level which has a new list of interesting books.  There you go, she experiences “getting Better rather than being Good” in real life.

This chapter-by-chapter dialogue continued until she finished the book.  Then came the question “Do you tell people about books like this?”  followed by “Are you going to tell them about this one?”  So, here I am.

So, a bit of a spoiler alert – here’s Halvorson’s list:

  1. Get Specific
  2. Sieze the Moment to Act on Your Goals
  3. Know Exactly How Far You Have Left to Go
  4. Be a Realistic Optimist
  5. Focus on Getting Better, Rather Than Being Good
  6. Have Grit
  7. Build Your Willpower Muscle
  8. Don’t Tempt Fate
  9. Focus on What You Will Do, Not What You Won’t Dot

For the very good commentary that accompanies each chapter, go pickup 2 copies – one for you and one for a son/daughter or niece/nephew.  You may be surprised at the outcome.

Career Advice in a Free Book

Thanks to a comedy of errors on a print run, I have a surplus of roughly 500 copies of The Rat, the Race, and the Cage, my book on career planning and decision making.  Don’t ya love publishers?  Anyway, I asked if they could just be sold like the rest of the inventory.  The answer was “Tom, you can do that and make more per book, because at this point the cost to you is zero per copy.  BUT, knowing your charitable side, it made sense to mention that you can also give them away to a worthy organization .”  OK, NOW I get it… and I like the idea of helping some organization out and I am going to do that.  But I also thought – why not let my network of colleagues and friends know and see if they know of a few worthy organizations as well?

The Offer:

If you know of a group (college class) or organization (career support group) that could benefit from receiving some copies that they will, in turn,  give away, then drop me a note.  Just help out with the shipping (books are heavy) and I’ll happily send them your way.  Let’s turn the printing issue into a benefit for people who could use a little career advice in the form of a free book for their career bookshelf.

About the book:

bookThe Rat, the Race, and the Cage shows readers how to make better career decisions through a little self reflection.  The book presents readers a simple model to better understand the three components of their job: the function, the industry in which they work, and the type of company for whom they work.  Analyzing these three things enables the reader to define a “personal career compass” that helps them make better career decisions about job changes.

The Rat, the Race, and the Cage is about finding direction, whether the reader is a college grad or caught in a mid-career rut.  What we do for a living can be more than just a way to pay the bills.  We can find fulfillment and personal satisfaction in our work by making better career decisions – and the book provides information that, one hopes, echoes the advice from career counselors, mentors, managers and knowledgeable friends.

Risk and Reward

Risk_RewardRisk and Reward – There is none of one without the other.

When was the last time you took a risk?

I am not talking foolish risks like eating a yogurt that has been in the back of the fridge since last year or hitting on Aaron Hernandez’ girlfriend, I’m talking about an honest to goodness, carefully calculated risk.

The stories of educated risks turning into personal and financial rewards are strewn throughout the last 100 years.  History is a beautiful teacher – especially if you are not the one who died to make the point.

I grew up in middle class America with little more than the basics.  Since there was no Internet and no cable TV with 300 channels, there was no ‘magic window’ to look through and compare my existence until high school.  When I was old enough, I earned money mowing lawns and used the money to subscribe to magazines which became my window to the world, my inspiration and my mental gym.  Formula 1 racing and the Indy 500 caught my eye and I became a fan, not because all boys seem to choose a sport and have a favorite team, but because I was curious and inspired.

There was glory, competition, technology, drama and tragedy wrapped-up in one exhilarating package.  There also was a high price. In the 60’s and 70’s  you needed to beat death because there was a 1 in 20 chance of a driver being killed each year.  I thought, “Why did these men take such huge risks?”  I learned that the Formula 1 drivers, team owners and designers all had something to prove and their incredible stories became my curriculum:

–          To finish first, you must first finish. – Rick Mears, 4-time Indy 500 Champion
My Life Application: Have resources to get the job done and push hard until the end.

–          I don’t know driving in another way which isn’t risky. Each one has to improve himself and each one has a limit. My limit is simply a little bit further than others. – Ayrton Senna, 3-time Formula 1 Champion
My Life Application: You must improve and find your limit and it is higher than you think.

–          When I raced it was at a time when sex was safe and racing was dangerous. Now, it’s the other way around. – Hans Stuck, 2-time 24 hours of Le Mans Champion
My Life Application:  It’s a funny quote that has a very significant hidden meaning: The game WILL inevitable change and you must react to it.

–          To achieve anything in this game you must be prepare to dabble at the boundary of disaster. – Sterling Moss, 4-time runner up Formula 1 Championship
My Life Application: If you want to be #1 in anything you must accept that massive failure is possible and it might be far worse than just finishing 2nd.  If it was easy EVERYONE would do it.

–          When I started racing my father said, nobody has three balls but some people have two very good ones. – Cristiano Da Matta, Formula 1 veteran.
My Life Application: Be honest about your skills at any moment, but push to make them better.

–          The great ones drive alone but need a good team in the garage. – Me
My Life Application: Self-reliance when pushing to achieve is not the same as going solo.

That’s a collection of some pretty good advice.  In every statement there is an inherent acceptance of the risks associated with racing.  Everyone one of them knew the risk “going in.”

If you were a fan of Formula 1, you came to admire Ferrari.  Enzo Ferrari, dubbed “the old man,” built sports cars to make money so he could compete in Formula 1.  Think about that.  He built a highly successful business in order to make money to endeavor into something where failure and death were common as the sunrise.  Why risk ridicule?  Because Enzo simply knew no other way how to live and had something to prove.

In the beginning, Formula 1 was driven by technology.  Pushing technology meant speed and speed meant winning and winning brought glory.  Ferrari was manic in the pursuit of technology advantages.  In the early 1950’s winning cars were a puzzle: (1) Horsepower made cars fast but; (2) Powerful engines used a lot of gas and; (3) a big gas tank was needed but also heavy which slowed you down.

Ferrari solved the puzzle in 1956 with the D50 (below).  Note the big gas tanks on either side of the sleek car.  Can you imagine what happened if you crashed?  Those gas tanks are essentially bombs. Ferrari just needed someone to drive it.

D50

Juan Fangio was already a 3-time world champion when approached by Ferrari.  As a champion, and the best driver of the day, he had absolutely nothing to prove.  But he understood the risk and said yes because he still felt he had something to prove. How did it turn out?  He won the 1956 Formula 1 World Championship, finishing not lower than 4th in every race except one, when the engine failed while he was leading by a large margin!

Here’s a black & white picture – look around and you will not see any modern safety barriers, just bales of hay.

D50 Racing

Fangio drove the car in 14 races and won 5 which is 35.7%!  That’s like hitting .357!  You would get a 9 digit baseball contract for that ability.

Fangio’s last win came when he was 46 years old and his record of 5 championships stood for nearly half a century until Michael Schumacher won 7 – and Schumacher did it in an era of the all-time highest speeds and the all-time safest cars.  There have been only 2 deaths in Formula 1 over the past 23 years.  Fangio passed away in 1995, living to be 84.

Thanks for reading this far.  My point is not to educate you about racing or how Juan Fangio had something to prove until the last moment he stepped out of a race car and into retirement.  It’s to underline that in 1950, the same human desire to take risks and earn rewards by people with something to prove was as alive and well as it is today.

Let’s find a life application for you.  Today we don’t need to take the risks associated with hopping into a race car with two ‘bombs’ attached.  But the simple rule about risk and reward remains as clear as it was in 1950: you may not have one without the other.

Are you hungry enough for reward to take some risk because you have something to prove?  Today economic rewards in the USA are tied to two things: starting a business or massive inheritances… and let’s leave out the one in a billion lottery winners.  Unless your grandfather is Warren Buffet, or one of his friends, that leaves one choice: do it yourself by building a business.

Starting a part-time business has risk but you can mitigate it with careful management of your time.  You can even keep your day job and test things a bit.  That allows you to taste a bit of failure and get over it.  According to Barbara Corcoran, multi-deca-millionaire real estate mogul, the key difference between basic and extraordinary sales people is, “How well you can take a hit and how long you feel sorry for yourself.  Something to prove is key.”  What do you have to prove?  A part-time business is a great way to see if you are up to the task and find out how far you can go.  Life and progress move fast and there have never been more tools available to help you keep up.  From mobile phones to the Internet, the weapons of communications and efficiency are at your disposal.

There’s also more frequent disruption than ever before and more uncertainty about things like social security.  Self-protection through insurance is more important than ever.  PHP not only offers such insurance from Nationally-recognized tier-1 companies, it provides a ready-made platform from which you can go out and prove something.

Is it time to take a calculated risk and prove something?   Your first effort may not go far, but live moves fast and opportunities don’t stay long.  Think about this: the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane 120 feet in 12 seconds on December 17, 1903 and Neal Armstrong stepped on the moon July 21, 1969.  From first flight to the moon in just 65 years!  If you were 7 years old and in 1st grade in 1903 you heard about the amazing airplane as your teacher read the newspaper to you.  Then, if you lived to be at least 72 you saw man step on the moon – on a TV that was not invented when Wright brothers flew.  Wow!

What’s your calculated risk?  How far will you fly and what do you have to prove?

5 Reasons Why Founder CEOs Need a COO

In the past week I have had no less than a dozen conversations about why Founder CEOs need COOs.

Recently I wrote about “Finding the Better Part of You” (see it here) which is closely related to this topic.  The reality is that a Founder CEO typically built the company on a product vision and then applied his or her particular skills.  These skills are usually related to conceiving and developing the product or service that became the cornerstone of the company he or she founded.  I am not leaving out the operations, sales and marketing people who have founded companies – but the product folks usually carry the day.  These product skills and some level of evangelistic aptitude are combined to secure the first customers and investors.

So it goes that if the company is successful the Founder CEO is slowly but certainly consumed by running the business on the inside vs. the early days of carrying the vision to build the business from the outside.  Many business minds, such as Jim Alampi, point out that Founder CEOs usually encounter a major stress point as the enterprise crosses $10M in sales.   Data on the subject proves these voices to be correct.  Organizational growth, the need for more mature processes and such all seem to cry out for attention at $10M in revenue.

From experience of my own and listening to others, here are my top 5 reasons (not in any particular order) why Founder CEOs need a COO to vault the $10M hurdle:

1.  COMPETITION:  $10M in revenue is a sure sign of a meaningful business and that invariably attracts even more meaningful competitors.  The CEO needs to be freed-up to dedicate time to the vital job of assessing the market, analyzing competitors and determining the appropriate strategic responses (as he or she did in the beginning).

2.  PRODUCT: A stated above, Founder CEOs usually comes from some product vector.  The product vision and roadmap will invariably come out of corporate strategy decisions.  As competition has matured so have their product offerings.   It is vital to keep the product relevant and in a leadership position and this requires focus and focus requires time.

3.  AMBASSADORSHIP:  There is no greater ambassador to touch the top customers than the CEO.  The VP of sales should have unfettered access to the CEO for this exact purpose – and the CEO must be available.  These visits also will garner key information that will flow right into points 1 & 2 above.

4.  FINANCING: As sales grew, so did AR and so did the cash-flow float.  Product development budgets also increase in size and scope.  All of this balance sheet activity strains available resources and calls for the normal influx of growth capital.  Banks and VCs invest in CEOs and companies – in that order.  The COO and VP of finance can “set the table” but the CEO needs to be bankable and close the deal.

5.  MENTORSHIP & MANAGEMENT:  VPs and SVPs positioned for next-level responsibilities in the growing firm need C-Level mentorship.  The CEO can not only provide it but objectively judge the readiness of these individuals for those positions.  Distracted CEOs consumed by other things cannot make fully informed key personnel decisions and a hiring or promotion error WILL have significant ripple effects.

As you have read, all of the above need the most precious of resources: TIME.  A CEO burdened by internal matters (annual plans, budgets, internal dashboards, HR, etc.) that could and should have been handled by the COO has no time to dedicate to the most vital of matters that call for high-quality decisions.  As you look back on the list, there is a blend of external issues (Ambassadorship and Competition) and internal matters (Product and Mentorship and Management).  A CEO needs to achieve the right blend of internal and external activities – and a CEO buried in his or her office can’t do so and, worse, can’t see the enemy moving its troops either.

Thus, the COO is a key enabler.  The COO must free the CEO to spend, in my opinion, 50% of his or her time on the things he or she did to establish the company in the first place.  With the CEO back to being an impact player investing time into his or her area of value-driving expertise, the company should thrive.   Back in the day, the CEO “HAD” to do these things.  At $10M, the CEO “NEEDS” to to do these things or get back to them!   In my opinion, the COO’s #1 goal should be to ensure the CEOs role and time demands are optimized toward value creation.   The execution may look different from company to company, but this goal of the COO should be consistent across sectors and markets.

Selecting the right COO is another mater – and that’s for another post.

It’s Not About Your Resume

Sitting here musing over coffee and a quick note came to mind…

Not too long ago I was speaking with a college student about his resume… and it mirrored a conversation that had just taken place with a colleague 15-years into his career.  The topic was the relevance of the resume to the job search when the job search is for a position that is “out of linear sync” with the historical trend presented on the resume.  Market forces or a career shift are causing this conflict every day.

Welcome to the new reality, folks.  My point of view on this has evolved to this: careers are now 3-year chapters and in today’s hyper-fast market, each chapter does not seamlessly hand-off to the next chapter.  In the past, careers often remained in particular industries where tenure led to deep sector knowledge.  Today, new sectors appear (i.e… social networking) and spawn other sectors (i.e… social gaming) while driving new revenue models (i.e.. ad-driven freemium).  An executive may play in all of the above over a 10-year (or less) period.  Functional expertise and the ability to manage change and innovation from all corners of the enterprise is key.

The solution?  I am not sure there is a universal solvent but there certainly is a new direction when presenting one’s CV to prospective employers.  Here’s my brief take:

1) LinkedIn is key.  The template enables presentation of projects, endorsements and references that augment and illuminate the linear history.  If you are not building them, you need to start now.

2) Start with an objective that defines the job search in terms of your skills and what those skills will deliver.  Think Moneyball (Go read it if you haven’t done so). Sports teams don’t hire players, they buy points and runs that win games.  I strongly suggest NOT listing the title as the objective and simultaneously NOT being too abstract.

3) Summarize results and functional expertise at the top of the resume.  I recently saw a “top-10” list of specific accomplishments that appeared before the normal chronology.  Brilliantly done.

4) Go easy on descriptive bullets that merely illustrate responsibilities.  That doesn’t differentiate you and an “A” candidate and a “F” candidate end up looking alike.  Think about it: Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning have the same responsibilities… Don’t be Jay Cutler.

Good luck –