We’ve all been to meetings where a bunch of people show up not knowing what to expect. The agenda goes a bit sideways, the participants hijack the meeting and the end result is not much has changed. Then, there are those rare times when the right facilitator (or facilitaors) show up and magic happens. Everyone at the meeting is engaged, the meeting flows effortlessly and you accomplish more than you ever dreamed of. Well, that happened to me yesterday.
San Diego is loaded with lots of talented leadership development experts and facilitators and I feel like I’ve met many of them. Yesterday I got to experience the brilliance of two of them, one I’ve know for a number of years and one I recently just met. The first facilitator managed the entire meeting, his name is Eric Kaufmann. Eric and I have become good friends over the past few years and he is a master at his craft. A published author, keynote speaker and someone who has chosen the path much less traveled. Eric held space for everyone, kept the meeting on track and we able to elicit the right energy to produce an end product that was just magical.
What was even more magical was the portion of the meeting that was facilitated by a new friend, Elizabeth Deicer. All I can say is this, when someone has deep experience in creating the type of organization we are looking to create, they can take less than 45 minutes to orchestrate magic that gets everyone aligned and brings clarity to an effort that has lacked clarity for many months. Sometimes we forget how nice it is to spend time with real experts, those that have invested the 10,000 hours to learn to be a master. I have learned over my career that to become a master at something is not always hard, yet most people don’t invest the time to earn the mastery. Yesterday I witnessed it twice within one meeting.
I must confess, that the quieter I was the more we accomplished. When the meeting turned to business development and the areas that I’ve focused my 10,000 hours then I was able to contribute in a meaningful way. I guess that the learning from this experience is that it is so worth it to find the right people to take on the right role in any situation. The more we surround ourselves with people that are truly expert at what they do the more we can create magic. At this point in my career I believe all I want to do is to create magic, so it’s time to find the genius in all the people that I meet and make sure I call upon the right resource at the right time.
To a life well lived …..
Later this morning I’ve been asked to participate in a webinar focused on a topic I’ve been focused on for more than 2 decades. The topic, peer collaboration for CEO’s and business owners. I facilitated my first peer event on my birthday in 1996, which is almost exactly 21 years ago. Over that time I’ve probably facilitated hundreds and hundreds of peer groups and round table discussions. I’ve also been able to coach many of these people one-on-one which has been awesome as well. So, what did I learn from all these interactions?
The first answer, I learned more about IT resellers than I ever could have imagined. Starting in 2000 we started to focus all of our energies on businesses that resold technology for Cisco, IBM, Avaya, HP, Microsoft and every other tech firm in the world. We would bring together people from across the US that didn’t compete based on the geography they covered rather than being non-competitive in a specific city, which is the model of most peer group companies. Over 15 years I must have met well over 2,000 owners and learned more about their businesses than I ever could have dreamed. We were even able to write a book about their businesses having never run one.
As for the generic learning, I realized that the best way for a business owner to learn how to grow their business is to spend time with others that are facing the same challenges that they are. The Edward Lowe Foundation, which was started by Edward & Darlene Lowe, is a non-profit that focuses on entrepreneurship. Their $105 million foundation has invested 100% of it’s efforts to help organizations develop peer programs across the globe. They have a document titled Peerspectives which is one of the best documents that I ever read about why peer groups are so powerful and what they can do for you. You can learn more about the Peerspectives model on their website.
The most famous book that outlines the power of peer collaboration or the mastermind is Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book outlines what the mavericks of the early part of the 20th century did to grow their empires. This include Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller and numerous others. The book talks about how these great titans learned so much from each other rather than each learning the same lessons on their own. This, for me, is the greatest reason to join a peer group. It’s all about the stuff that you don’t know that you don’t even know. In business things happen to others that you could never imagine happening to you. Yet, by listening to their story in a confidential environment you can start to think about what you might do in a similar situation. You can share best practices in areas of business that you are expert in and you can learn from peers who have complementary strengths.
In the end, the best thing about a confidential and trusted peer group is the ability to share everything that you can’t share with anyone else. You can’t talk with your spouse about all this stuff, you can’t talk with your lawyer or accountant, and most of all you can’t share much of it with your employees. So, where do you turn to discuss the most critical issues that you’re dealing with? It has to be your peers. But, and this is a big but, you need to really get to know the people you’re spending time with. There are many times that you’ll get advice from another business owner that you met at a bar for 30 minutes, yet most of that advice is just a story not what they really did. You need to get to the truth and be able to judge the value of the information you’re receiving and that only comes with time and getting to know other business owners. I would always open a peer group by telling the group four things:
- Everything that said in the room stays in the room
- You own your own issues (which means you can share them anywhere you’d like)
- Speak from your own experience
- Focus on asking questions rather than giving advice
Over the years I’ve seen more best friends meet for the first time, seen more owners take a deep breath knowing they found a place to share their deepest darkest secrets and heard more funny and painful stories about the life of a business owner. I wouldn’t trade the past two decades for anything and I look forward to always spending time with business owners and entrepreneurs as that is what I consider home. For each owner that I spend time with I always suggest joining a peer group and I hope that you’ll join Patrick Henry and me later this morning for our webinar!
Have a great day and to a life well lived!
I continue to practice learning to just be and to stop worrying about, or being attached to, the outcome. I believe that the world is letting me know that I’m on the right path, yet there is still a lot of work to do. Because of this, along with two years of intense networking and determination, I’m having more fun in my work life than I’ve had in a very long time. I was speaking with a very good friend this past week and told him that I should have focused on developing companies around products a long time ago. He stopped me in my tracks and said that I was crazy. He pointed out that I’ve had opportunities that most people would kill for. Having owned a services company for almost 25 years allowed me to have a tremendous amount of balance in my life. This process is just the next stage of my journey, and I can take all the lessons I’ve learned and use them on this portion.
I’m approaching my 54th birthday in a few weeks and I can’t imagine retiring. So, if I just make it to the average age of 75 or so, I’m looking at another 20 years of opportunities to create should I be so lucky to live that long. I am excited to see what that time period will allow me to create and I know I won’t be doing this alone. I’ve started to reach out to current friends who might want to participate financially in some exciting companies as well as talented executives and individual contributors who not only want to make money, but also want to make a difference in the world. One of the big issues that I’ve learned through this journey, to not only bring in talented people, those talented people need to be values aligned toward a common goal.
One of the purposeful companies that I’ve been supporting for the past 18 months or so is a water company that can take brackish ground water and turn it into clean drinking water and fertilizer. The company is currently focused on processing brine that is produced by current inland water filtration plants. There are hundreds of existing water treatment facilities that create brine as a waste product and this patented process can turn this waste product into a saleable product with no waste at all. The challenge has been that no one in the US wants to trust a technology that is only working in a plant in South Africa, where the technology was created. That pilot plant in South Africa has been in operation for a couple of years and has produced amazing results, but people don’t want to be the first in the US to install the system.
The technology is actually pretty fascinating. The system takes the waste from a traditional reverse osmosis treatment plant that’s servicing inland water (not salt water) and uses a process called ion exchange to take the waste and recombine the molecules into a usable product known as potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate is valuable and is used as fertilizer for high valued crops. Most of the world’s supply of potassium nitrate comes from outside the US, so creating a process that creates fertilizer here could be extremely effective on many fronts. The key to the opportunity is to get the first plant built in the US and then the opportunities will continue to show themselves.
Well, just last month a company that also uses ion exchange to process the brine was identified in El Paso, TX. They have built a very similar plant with the only difference being that the company in Texas creates gypsum instead of fertilizer. That plant should pave the way after numerous years of hard work by Aubrey and Glenn Howard, the driving forces behind the efforts. Aubrey has been talking with hundreds of prospective buyers for the technology and taking meeting after meeting looking for the right opportunity. It has been exciting and frustrating at the same time, yet persistence will pay off in the end.
One of the more interesting developments during this process is that the more I pursue these business opportunities the more I enjoy the coaching work I’m doing. When I was just focused on coaching and building a coaching business I realized that everything would always depend on me and that there was no opportunity to create value without my investment of time. This hybrid approach, combined with giving away time to make a difference through Purpose San Diego, is creating a nice picture for the next stage of my career. If you ever have any questions about the projects that I’m working on, or if you have a project where you believe I can be of service, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
To a life well lived …..
I continue to tell our kids that life is a big collection of lessons and that once you learn the lesson you get the next lesson. Life is not about “getting to the end” it’s about the journey and purely the journey. When it comes to lessons, I’ve found sometimes I learn a lesson at one point in my life only to relive the lesson at some point in the future. The lesson that’s coming up for me again at this point on my journey is that of preacher. At numerous points in my life I’ve learned a lesson that has deeply affected my world. In my late 20’s and early 30’s it was all about motivation and positive mental attitude. I told everyone that I met that they needed to get motivated and they “needed” to change their life in order to be happy.
In most of our lives we come across people that need to tell their story and preach about what they’ve learned. I’ve been that person numerous times, I’ve even written books about it. For some people they’re able to do this in a way that is very well received, yet for me it hasn’t shown up that way. This time the lesson has shown up in the concept of purpose and meaning in life. I’ve spent the past few years talking about why it’s so important for others to live a purposeful life and I’ve found a few things. First, those that are already purposeful nod their head and ask what’s so special about that? They’ve learned that lesson and it guides their lives. The ones that are not purposeful don’t want to hear about it and seem to be happy in their own worlds without purpose. So, where does that leave me? In many ways my ultimate objective is to connect more deeply with people, and to that point, my actions are not always producing that result. So why do I continue to do it? I believe this is a repeated lesson and I also believe that there’s a simple solution.
In my last blog post I wrote about building a business where I’m not the product. There are many people that being the product works well for, I’m not so sure I’m one of those people. Putting these two lessons together, I’m realizing that I no longer need to be the preacher, I just need to be an example of what it means to build a purposeful business and live a purposeful life and when people ask me how I did it I’m happy to share. Until that point, I know it’s time to put my head down and follow my passion to what’s next. For me, I have numerous passions and I continue to pursue products and organizations that align with my passion and with my purpose in life. I have often said that our purpose in life changes, and circumstances in life can redirect our purpose.
I love spending time with others that have a shared purpose and those seem to be the people that I connect to most quickly. I continue to meet entrepreneurs and resources that are driven to make a difference and those people, if they’re pure of heart, seem to be the ones I connect with most deeply with. I’m also passionate about brilliant technology, tools that can change the world and can transform industries. I’m also passionate about how we are raising our children in this digital economy and how social media is affecting our young teens. I know that when I stop looking and just let my inner voice guide me the right things seem to show up. In the end I know that I love business, I love helping young companies set a solid foundation, and I love helping people tell their story and connecting them to the best resources they can find. What I’ve also learned is that I need to stop preaching about purpose and meaning and let it be my journey. Not everyone is meant to see purpose and meaning the same way that I do, and that needs to be OK for me.
To a life well lived ……
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 …..
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 …..
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 🙂