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Scalable, Reproducible, Not Dependent on Me!

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Ever since I can remember I’ve studied people and tried to figure out how they’ve gotten to where they are. Early on in my career I would often wish I could trade places, but then I’d get to know the person and realize that there were only some parts of their lives that were attractive to me and I didn’t really want their whole life 🙂 Over the past 30 years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazing entrepreneurs, many of whom have built some very cool businesses. I’ve learned what hard work can produce and how much effort it takes to build something from scratch, yet the rewards can be pretty high. I’ve often spoken about calculated risk and not extending myself too far over the cliff.

Over that same period of time I’ve learned that building a life-style services business can be very nice and comfortable. It doesn’t take a lot of capital to get it going and it doesn’t take a lot of money to run it. The only challenge I’ve experienced is that if the business is going to grow it will require more work for me, always. Early on in my entrepreneurial journey a mentor told me that the best businesses are the ones that are scalable, reproducible and not dependent on people. I’ve had that as a mantra for the past 20 years or more. Yet, every business I’ve run and every business model I’ve started since I left GE have been a services businesses that relied on me and finding people that can do the work as well, and many times better, than me as the company grew. I thought that this would be a good thing to do again, but now I’m starting to question that mindset. If I’m going to work this hard to start a services business why not put in the same, or maybe even a bit more effort, into something that is scalable, reproducible and not dependent on me?

I’ve been thinking deeply about this lately and have come to the conclusion that building a company might be the right thing for me to do at this point. I’m not talking about another services company, I’m talking about a company that has a product. This product could be physical or it could be information based. The product could be sold B to B or B to C, although I’m most comfortable with the B to B sale. It can be sold on the internet or could be sold through a traditional sales model. I’ve spent a fair amount of time at the local universities inside their incubators and have met some wonderful young minds that are creating really cool technologies. It might be fun to help support one of them on their journey or take a technology from the Office of Innovation and Commercialization and start something from scratch. I could also build an online training program that I market, as long as my services every day are not the product. I can even see me joining an existing company as an owner or leader. I don’t think I need to rush into anything immediately, yet my mindset is shifting at this time.

I will still continue to support the purpose movement here in San Diego and see where Purpose San Diego goes. I will also continue to support the teen programs I’m very passionate about, yet I don’t see those as my business, I see them as my gift to the community. I will continue to coach selected companies and individuals that I have a passion for and build some peer groups and networking groups to keep me connected to the community. I have often said that life keeps providing us with lessons and we keep getting the lesson until we learn it. In my life one recurring lesson is to stop telling people what to do and to be an example of what I believe. Over the past few years I’ve been trying to tell people how to be purposeful, I’m beginning to believe I just need to live a purposeful life myself and that’s enough. I can make any business a purposeful business by creating a purposeful culture, hiring people that have a passion for the mission of the company and by investing back in the community when the business does well. It’s not a complicated game and one that it seems like I’m willing to play. I will continue to spend time contemplating what this next evolution looks like and I’m excited to see where this leads.

To new beginnings and a life well lived …..

Re-Entry – Take 2; Patience

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On July 1, 2015, I returned to San Diego after 6 months traveling the world. Upon my return from that trip I had two tasks, complete the renovation of our home and build a new business. The home renovation was pretty straight forward, and the contractor who helped us complete that project was absolutely amazing! The final version of our home was almost exactly as planned, and we’re extremely happy with the final result. As for building a new business to replace 4-Profit, that hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Then again, what business does?

Upon my return from our global adventure I was convinced that the meditations that I had done during our travels had provided me with a clear path. The business model, the target client, the financial model and much more were so clear. When I returned I started telling people what I was going to do, I finished writing the book and was convinced that this was it. That lasted about 8 months, until I realized that what I thought needed to be built wasn’t what the marketplace really wanted. At least, that’s what showed up for me. Then Ilise got diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and a few other challenges showed up in my life.

As I look back over the past two years, I’ve really spent most my time learning about San Diego and the local business market. I’ve learned so much about this city; the culture, the pockets of business, the buying process and the pace. I’ve established myself as someone who is committed to using my business acumen to leave this planet better than I found it and that I’m looking for like-hearted, like-minded people to share in that journey. I’ve met a couple of thousand people here in San Diego, as well as some across the globe that share my passion for effecting the world, and I’ve gained some amazing new friendships. I continue to get introduced to other like-minded people, here and abroad, and I find myself investing my time in those relationships that I resonate with. No more chasing financial return, it’s time to pursue the things that make my heart sing. I’ve often said that business is not complicated, business is easy, people are complicated. I’m not someone who likes to work alone, so once the right people show up the financial flow will return.

On July 10, 2017, I returned to San Diego after 2 1/2 weeks in NY with my wife, Ilise, and in many ways it feels like 2015 all over again. We had a great time as I was able to disconnect from my work and just enjoy our time with friends and family. I feel like I’m starting anew, only this time I have a much stronger foundation to launch from. I know that I don’t have all the answers and that I’m approaching this portion of the journey with a beginners mind and with lots of questions. I’m learning the more questions I ask the better my life gets. As I continue on this path of self discovery, new opportunities present themselves on a regular basis. I’m open to all the possibilities and I’m beginning to trust my gut on which ones feel right. I always assumed that I’d have more answers by now, yet that is not the purpose of this journey. The more I keep following my heart the more clarity I gain.

So, in this Re-Entry – Take 2, I’m excited to explore what is presented to me rather than preaching what I believe. My role is that of Chief Connector, as a Catalyst of change and as a Storyteller. I continue to meet so many people that tell me that they see my future for me, yet many of those people are projecting their needs onto me. I’m here to serve and listen to my heart because all of the answers are inside of me. My journey is uniquely mine and the more I trust in the process the better my life gets. I’m excited to continue this journey wherever it might lead.

To a life well lived …..

GRIT & Pride

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Team USA – Drew is in the first row on the left

I have written about GRIT in the past, but today I want to talk about it as it relates to our kids. Over the past few years I have noticed a level of GRIT in our 17 year old daughter, Drew, that is amazing to observe. We are also starting to see it in our 15 year old son, Noah. Watching both of them learn the value of GRIT is just amazing and it makes me so proud of the people that they are and the young adults they are becoming.

In particular, this week I’d like to focus on our daughter, Drew. When she was little she loved dresses and loved to be a little doll. She would even get her little brother to dress up with her. She was never much into sports, although she was open to playing basketball in 4th grade and soccer in 5th grade, yet it was never something she was driven to do. One our global journey Drew started to work out and started to take her body seriously. Upon our return to San Diego in 10th grade, Drew became friends with a someone who was an excellent basketball player. Now, Drew had never shown any interest in playing basketball, yet she didn’t want to lose out on time with her new best friend. So, when the coaches went around the lunch area looking for girls to join the JV basketball team Drew said yes.

When she started she had no idea what she had gotten into. She started going to practice and came home each night lost and confused. Over the season she went from not knowing anything about the game to becoming a huge fan of being on a team and was voted the most improved player on the team. She tried so hard to learn the game of basketball even though she admits that she’s not very good. Her GRIT and determination are what makes her a great teammate. At the end of that season Drew loved being on a team sport so much that she decided to try her hand at lacrosse. She made the JV team after never having picked up a stick before the tryouts. She worked really hard that season and was voted most improved on that team as well.

Now, if you ask me of my wife, Drew is not a star athlete, she’s not overly coordinated, but she has a competitive fire that is hard to match. She wants to improve in everything she does and she will practice, run, do drills as long as she can to get better. I don’t believe she will ever be the best athlete on most teams, but there won’t be many on the team that will practice harder or dedicate themselves the way she will. To me GRIT is even more important than skill. Angela Duckworth, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, would totally agree. You can learn more about Angela through her TED Talk.

This GRIT, this determination has allowed Drew to get everything that she has in life. For someone who never played a team sport until 18 months ago, our little girl is currently in Israel representing Team USA at the Maccabiah Games. This is basically the Jewish Olympics and is held once every four years. We found out about this opportunity back in March and over the past few months she’s been getting ready for this chance to demonstrate her GRIT and be on a team that represented her country. Over the past two weeks Team USA has won all of there games and Drew will forever be part of the first ever Gold Medal team for Junior Girls Lacrosse. What an amazing accomplishment for a young lady that never played the game of lacrosse until a bit over a year ago!

Over the past two weeks Drew has learned some amazing lessons and she has represented her country along with 13 other young women. We are so proud of her accomplishments and what she’s been able to achieve in her short sporting career. It proves to me that the GRIT it takes to push forward and never, ever quit is something that is invaluable in life. I look forward to celebrating many more proud parenting moments in the future, yet this one is pretty special!

To a life well lived 🙂

Our Mind’s Truth

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I was listening to someone recently who told me that he didn’t feel whole, that he was wondering why a part of him felt missing and that he needed to go find it. In that moment it occurred to me that maybe what he was feeling was truly being whole and what was missing was only his fantasy of what was missing. If I believe everything that I’ve been taught, and we are perfect all the time, then the feelings of inadequacy, the feelings of “not feeling whole” are just our mind tricking us into believing that we’re not. This is not the truth, it’s just our programming trying to override our natural state.

Over the past 5 years I’ve been talking about how much Madison Avenue and Hollywood have effected our lives. How much consumerism has educated us into what’s most important, yet this is not the truth. We are focusing our thoughts and energies on the distractions, the things that get in our way of happiness. If we were to truly trust in the world, trust in our own inner voice, than what decisions would we make? How would we act in the world if we knew that this was all a game and life was meant to be lived fully, not sitting on the sidelines as a fan watching others play? I am tired of watching others play the game and thinking that they might be doing it better than I am.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the human process of judgement keeps us from our own happiness, and maybe, just maybe, we are whole all the time. Maybe we are perfect and it’s just our mind, or the programming of our mind, that keeps us from experiencing the joy that lives within us every day. What if we could remove that judgement and experience our inner happiness on a daily basis? In a past iteration of my thinking I would think that joy was all happiness all the time. Today I think differently. Having had the life experiences I’ve had, it’s not about happiness, it’s about feeling all the emotions of life and embracing them rather than fighting them. To embrace all the feelings with acceptance and saying hello to them. Saying hello to sadness and disappointment. To learn how to identify them and see them for what they are.

In a meditation a couple of months ago I started to think about times in my life when I felt depressed. During the meditation I came to realize that I don’t believe I was ever really depressed, ever. What I was feeling was really loneliness and the only “label” I could put on it was depression. In that moment it became clear to me that I didn’t have enough understanding of my own thoughts and the labels I use are insufficient, and how the words I tell myself effect my way of being. As I learn to understand what’s really going on inside of me I can experience the feeling and let it go. I am coming to believe that it’s about seeing the feelings for what they are and then letting them go, and the same for relationships. They are there to hold up mirrors for us, to see in others what we don’t see in ourselves. So, when we believe that we’re not whole, is that true, or is it our mind trying to confuse us into thinking that we are not perfect?

To a life well lived!

 

The Un-Elevator Pitch

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Over the last two years, as I’ve returned from our global travels and started to build 5 Dots, I’ve been a lot more conscious of the networking that I do. I’ve become much more observant of how others react to me and how people react to each other. Who are the people that everyone wants to learn more about? What is it that they do in order to gain deeper relationships, which most times translates to more business. What is the approach that they take to make it seem so effortless? How do they approach new relationships that makes them different?

I’ve talked about the concept of human doings vs human beings often over the past year or more, to me that is still at the core of the issue. As I facilitate more and more networking events and groups the more I realize that the elevator pitch, which I’ve come to love creating, in many ways is useless to the average business owner in initial meetings. The challenge is that every once in a while we can point to a conversation where we told someone what we do and business resulted. This is probably 100% true, the only issue is I’m beginning to believe that this is the exception and not the rule. The elevator pitch might be ideal for a high-tech startup looking to land some seed funding, but I’m not sure that it’s right for most situations.

We’ve all been told that people do business with people that they know and trust. So, does delivering the perfect elevator pitch do that? How is trust built and can we build it through the perfect 30 second commercial? In some cases, it is possible when the ideal solution walks into someone with the perfect problem and magic happens, but for us mere mortals it’s not that easy. When I first returned from traveling and people started a conversation I would talk about doing vs being and then I would ask what they did for a living. What a terrible question!

The more conscious I become about the evolution of human relationships the more I realize where it all starts. It starts getting to know the other person and seeing them for who they are. It starts with being present and letting them know you’re listening and deeply care about them as a human being. In a recent networking meeting with a dozen other people in attendance, one of the group members said that it’s hard to have lots of deep relationships. I totally, 100%, disagreed. It’s not hard to have deep and meaningful relationships and interactions. What is hard is making time for lots of ongoing deep and meaningful relationships.

What if we tried to make every interaction more meaningful and we tried to be more present? What would that feel like for both individuals? How would you feel if you met someone who was so interested in learning about you and not trying to sell you anything? Doesn’t that make you feel better than someone telling you what they do hoping that you might know someone you can introduce them to? Based on this line of thinking I’m coming to the conclusion that the elevator pitch might be outdated, and what we really need to do is just learn to build relationships. Most of our new business comes from those we know and trust, so how do we help people get to know us and learn to trust us? To me, that is the $1 million question.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There will come a time and place where you need to clearly articulate what it is that you do for a living. If you can’t do that then you will never get referrals. I’m saying that this is not the starting point. the elevator pitch, the ability to clearly and articulately define what you sell, who your target market is and what your ideal referral partners look like is critical, just hold onto that information until you have developed a relationship. Adam Grant, in his book Give & Take, states that the most successful people in the world are the givers and the most unsuccessful people are the givers. Knowing how and when to use your giving skill set, establishing boundaries and knowing when to ask for what you need is what will make the difference. In the end, when the relationship is formed the elevator pitch becomes so much more useful!

Connecting the dots ….. one at a time!

Startup San Diego

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As I move into my next adventure, I’m realizing that this is where I was meant to be all the time. Ever since I started with Let’s Talk Business radio, I knew I was meant to live and breath entrepreneurship. I studied everything I could get my hands on and began to network like a madman, going to every event I could to meet as many people as I could. I was getting started in the mid-90’s in NYC, right when Silicon Alley was being birthed. I saw many of my friends getting involved with early stage companies while we built a nice, life-style business. My original business partner told me that a business without real growth was not worth having, yet in 2003 it became evident to me that building a “practice” was the perfect ride for me. I was a new father of two young children and being a father was my #1 priority.

I saw the amount of time and energy it took to create something that could scale and I wasn’t willing to make the trade. Over the past 24 years of my entrepreneurial journey I’ve learned so much. There are some things that I’ve never done, such as raising money and pitching VC’s, yet the journey of building, branding, telling the story and creating a vision for the future was what I loved. I spent 15 years in an industry that provided me with a very solid living. Our clients were good people with honorable intentions, yet most of them could never scale because of the limitations of their own business model. As I mature (I say that lightly) in my business dealings, I’m realizing that I was built for the startup. With that said, as part of this weekly blog I will start to highlight some of the best startups that I come across in San Diego and beyond. I believe that San Diego has an amazing and burgeoning startup scene and I’m excited to see where this all leads.

So, as my first feature I’d like to introduce you to ARC, Additive Rocket Corporation. ARC is located in the Qualcomm incubator at UCSD. It’s not your typical startup, these young mad scientists are revolutionizing propulsion. Since the engine was conceived the limiting factor to building the ideal rocket engine is the ability to machine the metal parts and assemble them in a way that it would produce the thrust necessary to propel whatever it was that needed propulsion. It could be the entire rocket from lift off or a satellite needing a bit of control out in space where the rocket engine provides some ability to control their direction. In the end, the limiting factor was to make individual parts that need to be assembled to build the engine. What if?

What if you could now “print” the engine? What could you create if you had the ability to use a 3-D metal printer to “manufacture” the engine, what would that create? Well, if you ask the founders of ARC they have an amazing answer. These brilliant minds have combined the science and engineering of rocket engines with the biology of humans. They have used an intricate capillary system that could only be manufactured using 3D printing. Most of their competitors are just taking existing assembly models and printing them, which is cool in itself. Yet, redesigning the engine from scratch is just amazing. The reality is that ARC is much more than a rocket engine company. Over the years I believe that rocket engines will be where they got their start, but the real genius lives at the intersection of engineering and biology and how a 3D printer can make new products that were never envisioned before. I would consider them a BioEngineering Manufacturing company. How cool is that?

Tonight, in downtown San Diego, SDVG (San Diego Venture Group) has highlighted the top 30 startups in San Diego and ARC is one of them. Another company that will be featured tonight is a young company called Brax (www.brax.io). Feel free to check them out as well.

I’m looking forward to posting information about lots of startups over the coming years as I build a practice around helping them grow their businesses. As always, please feel free to reach out or suggest a cool startup that I should be looking at. I can’t wait to see where this all leads.

Connecting dots ….. one dot at a time.

Pivot #2, or is it #3? Maybe #4 :-)

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Since our return in July 2015 I’ve been on a journey to make a living by making a difference. I’ve been running around San Diego talking to people about the intersection of purpose and business. I’ve been attempting to take my past experiences and roll them into a new endeavor, one that will not only make me a living but one that will leave this planet so much better than I found it. The biggest lesson that I’ve learned from the past two years is that it doesn’t really matter what I do to make a living. What matters is how I do it, who I do it with and with what intentions.

I came back certain that I would start a community for purpose driven leaders. I called this community Success Redefined, wrote a book and started telling everyone how to be more purposeful. I had a big launch event in January 2016 and thought I was on my way. As you know through my posts over the past year, this hasn’t been quite as successful as I’d hoped. I’ve run into road block after road block and pivoted a number of times. Last April I hit a huge wall, challenges with growing the business, challenges at home and then Ilise was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. All of this piled up on us, yet I continued to plow forward.

Back in June of 2016 my brother told me about a good friend of his that was looking for someone to do business development for his company, so I pursued that. That wasn’t the right fit, yet the concept of business development was what I did every day. The business development construct lead me to launch 5 Dots, an outsourced business development company that did coaching and fractional business development for others. I spent time developing the 5 Dots methodology and have received amazing feedback from people about it. It seems like business development is this deep, dark mystery to most people. Maybe it’s time to demystify it 🙂

In the interim, I found Andrew Hewitt and GameChangers. I tried to use my business development skills to help them turn their GameChangers 500 concept into a thriving business. I was going to apply my business development skills to the community that is trying to make a difference. We are early in this business cycle and I thought that being at the heart of it would be my future. Yet that didn’t happen exactly as I’d thought. I continued to search and search and all along the way the answer was right in front of me.

Ever since I started in business I’ve loved startups. Even my own startups got boring after the idea started to mature. If I’m honest with myself, I really lost interest in 4-Profit at least a decade before I said goodbye. I ran it and managed it, but the business was not who I was. It used many of my skills to help it grow, yet I didn’t think to venture far from what made me a living. Ever since returning from our travels I’ve been attracted to people and ideas that are new and exciting. I want to help them tell their story more clearly, I want to introduce them to other people that have skills and resources to help them, I need to help them grow. Last April I hired a coach who asked me the same question over and over, what is it that you love? At the time I gave him the memorized answer, the one from my head not the answer from my heart. In the end, this journey is all about self discovery and I’m discovering that I’m a starter, I’m someone who loves to get things started and once they are past the beginning I’m done, I don’t need to be involved anymore.

So, where does this leave me? I’m still very purposeful and want to use my skills to leave this planet infinitely better than I found it. I will apply myself to projects that matter, with people that I like and respect in order to live my purpose. Part of my purpose is to create wealth. I like having money and helping others with the money we have. I’ve loved watching Armstrong, the young Ugandan Pilot we met back in 2012, live a life he never dreamed of. I love being a Rotarian and working on volunteer projects all across San Diego and even into Mexico. I’ve loved traveling the globe and helping people in all parts of the world. Much of this requires financial resources to do them, and I know how to make money.

Money comes when we leverage our time and take risk. I learned early on that I couldn’t trade time for money, the J.O.B. wasn’t for me. I needed to take the risk and figure out how to make money on my own. I’ve also learned the value of focus and being part of a niche of the business community. 4-Profit focused on the owners of IT resellers that had between 25 – 125 employees, and provided specific services to that audience. It became so easy to sell the more we clarified our niche. Now, the niche is start up businesses, especially those that have raised their first round of funding. I will continue to coach IT resellers, especially those that I know and like. I will find products and services that are needed by the startup market segment and work with a team of people who’s passion and values align with mine. In the end it’s all about the relationships and the human connection. The more I am out and about the more purposeful, passionate and capable people I meet.

The tagline of 5 Dots is More Prospects …. Better Clients. I believe the same is true in building my business as it regards to people. The more people I meet the more options I have, and the more options I have the more selective I can be. I’m so excited about where this is headed while also feeling a sense of peace. I am becoming the person I was born to be, not the one I was taught to be. For me it starts and ends with relationships, that’s the foundation of everything.

To a life well lived!