Since light travels faster than sound, isn’t that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?
by Katie Adams
Thursday, April 1, 2010
At least once in your life – maybe even once a week or once a day for that matter – you have fantasized about coming into a lot of money. What would you do if you were worth millions or even billions? Believe it or not there are millionaires and billionaires among us who masquerade as relatively normal, run-of-the-mill people. Take a peek at some of the most frugal wealthy people in the world.
Millions of people read Buffett’s books and follow his firm, Berkshire Hathaway’s, every move. But the real secret to Buffett’s personal fortune may be his penchant for frugality. Buffett, who is worth an estimated $47 billion, eschews opulent homes and luxury items. He and his wife still live in their modest home in Omaha, Nebraska which they purchased for just $31,500 more than 50 years ago.
Although he’s dined in the best restaurants around the globe, given the choice he would opt for a good burger and fries accompanied by a cold cherry Coke. When asked why he doesn’t own a yacht he responded “Most toys are just a pain in the neck.” (Find out how he went from selling soft drinks to buying up companies and making billions of dollars.
While most of the world is very familiar with Bill Gates, the name Carlos Slim rarely rings a bell. But it’s a name worth knowing. Slim, who is a native of Mexico, was just named the world’s richest billionaire – that’s right, richer than the uber-famous Microsoft founder. Slim is worth more than $53 billion and while he could afford the world’s most extravagant luxuries he rarely indulges. He, like Buffett, doesn’t own a yacht or plane and he has lived in the same home for over 40 years.
The founder of the Swedish furniture phenomenon Ikea struck success with affordable, assemble-it-yourself furniture. For Kamprad, figuring out how to save money isn’t just for his customers, it’s a high personal value. He’s been quoted as saying “Ikea people do not drive flashy cars or stay at luxury hotels.” That goes for the founder as well. He flies coach for business and when he needs to get around town locally he either takes the bus or will head out in his 15-year-old Volvo 240 GL.
Growing up in the wake of The Depression as an Irish-American probably has something to do with Feeney’s frugality. With a personal motto of “I set out to work hard, not get rich,” the cofounder of Duty Free Shoppers has quietly become a billionaire but even more secretively given almost all of it away through his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. In addition to giving more than $600 million to his alma mater Cornell University, he has given billions to schools, research departments and hospitals.
Loath to spend if he doesn’t have to, Feeney beats both Buffett and Kamprad in the donation category, giving out less grants than only Ford and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. A frequent user of public transportation, Mr. Feeney flies economy class, buys clothes from retail stores, and does not wast money on an extensive shoes closet, stating “you can only wear one pair of shoes at a time”. He raised his children in the same way; making them work the same normal summer jobs as most teens.
If you live in the Midwest chances are good that you shop at Meijer’s chain of grocery stores. Meijer is worth more than $5 billion and nearly half of that was amassed when everyone else was watching their net worth drop in 2009. Like Buffett he buys reasonably-priced cars and drives them until they die, and like Kamprad he chooses affordable motels when on travel for work. Also, like Chuck Feeney, rather than carelessly spending his wealth Mr. Meijer is focused on the good that it can provide to the community.
The Bottom Line
The dirty little secret of some of the world’s wealthiest people is that they rarely act like it. Instead of over-the-top spending, they’re busy figuring out how to save and invest to have that much more in the future. It’s a habit you might want to consider in order to build up your own little storehouse of cash.
maar weinig mensen
die alleen door
uit te ademen in
een stuk metaal
voorgoed je leven veranderen
ik noem er een paar
als toots de lippen
op het metaal zet
de ogen sluit
en zijn ziel
door de houten schotjes blaast
zwermen vogels door je
en rijdt rutger hauer
toen hij godzijdank nog geen verstand had van acteren
weer door de binnenstad van amsterdam
nooit kijk je meer
naar verliefde meisjes
achter op fietsen
hun hoofd tegen de rug
van hun grote liefde
zonder dat toots
met een kracht
van 8.8 op de schaal van ontroerend
je hart openbreekt
laat een stukje zien
van een in
een b-film acterende
beau van erven dorens
laat toots iets blazen
het lijkt opeens wat
zet toots zijn muziek
onder de zojuist schaamteloos ingesproken
commercial door patrick lodiers
en je hebt opeens zin
om naar zijn programma te gaan kijken
vlak voor de uitzending
zat toots thielemans
vlak achter mij in een stoel
het was stil
en opeens hoorde ik
we zaten daar niet meer alleen
de ruimte vulde zich
met het geluid van 100-en
miles davis poetste
in een hoek van de kamer
in de tuin
terwijl toots blies
tikte jan wolkers tegen het raam
hij liet ons een insect zien
toots stopte even met spelen
zo ervaar je het leven na toots
je leeft je leven in een film
waar toots al lang
de soundtrack bij heeft geschreven
Nico Dijkshoorn DWDD 21-04-2010
FC Expert Blog
By Boyd Cohen
Steve Jobs created innovative products that change the world of technology. Imagine the other industries he could have disrupted.
The anecdotes and stories of Steve Jobs’ career continue to pour in, with the sad news of a life cut too short by cancer. Like many Fast Company readers, I have been a fan of what Steve Jobs and Apple have managed to do over the past decade or so. I also own an iPad 2, an iPhone 4, and a MacBook Air. As has been written many times, Jobs’s genius helped Apple to reinvent at least three different industries (computing, mobile phones, and music).
I began to reflect today on what Steve Jobs meant to those industries he reinvented. Even competitors like Bill Gates have praised Steve for how he has innovated and changed the face of so many industries. He set a high bar inside Apple and forced his competitors to “innovate or die.” Given that my focus is on profitable innovations for the low-carbon economy, I thought it would be interesting to consider what the U.S. would look like if Steve Jobs had applied his passions to reinventing the energy industry and related systems.
Passion and Commitment to Change the World
The first thing we know is that Jobs would have been relentless in his pursuit to reinvent the ways that we interact with, consume and produce energy. Steve Jobs only spent mental energy on big ideas that could change the world that he was truly passionate about: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking,” he said. And: “Try to make a difference in this world and contribute to the higher good. You’ll find it gives more meaning to your life and it’s a great antidote to boredom.”
Telling the Right Story–It’s Not About Climate Change, Stupid
One of the biggest failures of the environmental and climate change movement has been its lack of proper storytelling. One of the best attempts to tell the story about climate change was Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth book and movie project. I have to give him props for raising awareness of climate change by trying to explain, sometimes with some technological wizadry, why the climate is changing and why humans are partially to blame.
However, if Steve Jobs were Al Gore, he would have done this completely differently. He would not try to scare people with the doom and gloom of climate change. If Steve Jobs wanted to change the dialogue and collective consciousness about this challenge, he would have done it in a way that inspires optimism and excitement about the convenient solutions that will make our lives better. My friend Peter Byck has tried to do this through his documentary, Carbon Nation, and my co-author Hunter Lovins and I tried to do the same with Climate Capitalism. But imagine if Steve Jobs were telling the story about how much better his new GPS and smart grid-linked EV mass transit system would allow us to get anywhere we wanted to go, faster and smarter than we ever have before.
He Would Make Public Transit Exciting
North Americans generally think that public transit sucks. And to be honest, most of our public transit systems are pretty bad–we often see long waits for buses that are frequently late at stops that are exposed to the elements, and are usually still stuck using the same roads that all the other vehicles use (meaning they aren’t very fast, either). I am convinced that if Steve Jobs had been in the role of, say , Mayor of Los Angeles, he would have introduced some radical innovation to the public transit system, making it cooler than using your own car.
Trying to channel Steve Jobs is impossible, but whatever his solution, I bet it would be faster than single occupancy vehicles, make more use of smart technology, be powered by renewables, generate more energy than it consumed, and send excess energy back to a brilliant grid.
And what would a discussion about Steve Jobs’ talents be without considering how he might bring his design aesthetic to any innovation? Transit would be cool because he would design it to be so. It would be sleek and sophisticated, yet simple. Touch screens would allow passengers to know exactly when their transit vehicle was arriving and when they would arrive at their destination, thanks to GPS and other tools we haven’t thought of yet.
A Brilliant (Not Just Smart) Grid
I recently wrote about the challenges of smart grid adoption in the U.S.–something that poses the potential to revolutionize how we produce, distribute and consume energy. If Steve Jobs were the CEO of an energy company, even a mainstream oil and gas company like Shell, I think he would have seen the writing on the wall a long time ago and made a major shift into renewables as well as the convergence of IT and energy. He would convert a company focused on outdated paradigms into the next big thing, turning the potential smart grid into a brilliant grid.
In his words: “Innovation has no limits. The only limit is your imagination. It’s time for you to begin thinking out of the box. If you are involved in a growing industry, think of ways to become more efficient; customer friendly; and easier to do business with. If you are involved in a shrinking industry-get out of it quick and change before you become obsolete; out of work or out of business. And remember that procrastination is not an option here. Start innovating now.”
And of course there would be large scale adoption of the brilliant grid technology because again, it would be easy and maybe even fun to use. The design of the systems used by consumers (i.e. smart meters and appliances) would be so intuitive and elegant that no one would even think about complaining about low-level radiation from smart meters technology. Smart meters would become the thing everyone needs to have in their home.
I know that Steve Jobs had his critics. But more often then not he proved them wrong. He was a once-in-a-generation genius at reinventing industries. Through his storytelling and innovation skills, he easily could have reinvented the dialogue about climate change, changed public perception and use of public transit, and accelerated the adoption of a super smart grid. Maybe there is someone else on the horizon who will be the next generation’s Steve Jobs, prepared to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems– water and food shortage, climate change and energy. If there is, they probably wouldn’t use focus groups either.
Boyd Cohen, Ph.D., LEED AP, is a climate strategist helping to lead communities, cities and companies on the journey towards the low carbon economy. Dr. Cohen is the co-author of Climate Capitalism: Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change.
I remember Max Bernegger’s disarming smile the day he walked through the doors at Alexandra Christie, the 1970s fashion company owned by Dutch oil trader John Deuss — where I was the model. Max was expensively tailored in a dark suit. I had no idea who he was, but I was certain he was not there to write an order for slinky silk chiffon dresses.
Max Bernegger was the man behind fashion icon Norman Norell – America’s Balenciaga – for many years. He moved with the confidence of a great image maker. However, to my shock and dismay, Max had come to shut down the Alexandra Christie company. And when I found out, his smile seemed somehow inappropriate.
I would later discover that his philosophy about success in life was to embrace failure and triumph over it. Maybe it was a lesson that came from a lot of bruised knees on the soccer field in his native Switzerland where he played semiprofessional ball as a kid.
But, we did have subsequent conversations. And he did introduce me to John Deuss after he took a position with Deuss’ JOC Oil Company. In fact, Max became John Deuss’ star oil trader. [ John Deuss’ Editors On Record On The Man]
Max Bernegger has now retired from the oil business. He did not know about the Deuss First Curacao International Bank scandal when I reached him by telephone a few days ago. Our conversation follows:
Suzan Mazur: What was it about Dutch oil man John Deuss that made you toss your high profile fashion industry career in the 1970s for the clang of JOC Oil’s telex machines? For years you were the man behind legendary fashion designer Norman Norell.
Max Bernegger: I didn’t know much about John Deuss before he interviewed me. It was 1974 and Deuss was looking for an advisor for his fashion business. He had a fashion house at 550 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan called Alexandra Christie, which of course is where you and I met. John Deuss – The Manhattan projects]
The advisor position lasted three days, because after reviewing Alexandra Christie’s performance I suggested that John close the doors of the company. The clothes were pretty but the company lacked structure. John would have had to sink a lot more money into the business to turn it around.
Deuss weighed my decision and said to me, “Well Max, if we close the fashion business, you won’t be able to advise us.”
I said, “Look, in good faith I cannot tell you to put more money in.”
And John said, “I’ll make a deal with you. Close the business in three days. I want to hire you for JOC Oil.”
I liked his deal.
Suzan Mazur: Did you ever determine who was in charge at Alexandra Christie?
Max Bernegger: Essentially nobody was in charge. John was being fed a lot of bull about the company’s profile. Plus the designer was a bit wacky, although her sister was one of John’s very competent secretaries. John Deuss did not know the fashion business.
Suzan Mazur: What was it about Deuss that you saw?
Max Bernegger: John Deuss was a very, very exciting type of guy. He had a cool kind of fire. Highly intelligent and without formal education. He didn’t even go to high school as a matter of fact.
Suzan Mazur: Because of the explosives accident he had as a teen? Did he drop out of school?
Max Bernegger: He did not drop out of high school. He never went. He wanted to go out in life and do things. He probably finished 8th grade.
Suzan Mazur: Is that right?
Max Bernegger: He told me that.
Suzan Mazur: As Deuss would say, “Unbelievable!”
Max Bernegger: There’s something very magnetic about him. But you know him too.
He would look into your eyes. He was very, very penetrating. I was really fascinated by him. And of course, he offered me a lucrative job. It was big money at the time.
He put me in charge of establishing the collecting of waste oil in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. The oil fed a refinery he bought in Bayonne, New Jersey. He was reclaiming oil – taking waste oil from cars in garages – and using it as feedstock to produce #3 and #4 heating oil.
There were a lot of crooks involved in collecting this stuff. And you had to be worried about ending up floating in a tank. Honest to God.
Suzan Mazur: Like the scrap metal business? Same characters?
Max Bernegger: Exactly. Most of them you wouldn’t trust across the street. Somehow I was able to convince them to work with us though. I had to be very nice to them. And I can be very nice — as well as a son of a bitch.
Suzan Mazur: You were headquartered though in the Olympic Towers in New York?
Max Bernegger: No. No. No. The Olympic Towers came after I established the network. I was working out in New Jersey, at the refinery in Bayonne, New Jersey. In Bayonne, we had the trucks coming in discharging the waste oil. We had to be very careful. Because these guys would try to cheat you with a lot of water in the waste oil and stuff like that.
Suzan Mazur: So you put away the Valentino suits.
Max Bernegger: It was an unbelievable switch from high fashion to waste oil. It was a lot of fun really. Exhilarating. And the operation became successful. You feel like a winner. You get a lot of confidence.
And John Deuss promised me that two years after the operation became successful, he’d get me into New York trading oil, which I, of course, was looking forward to. That was the incentive for all the hard work, for the 16 and 18 hour days I’d been putting in every day and every weekend.
Suzan Mazur: Did you socialize with John?
Max Bernegger: Oh yes. Lunches, dinners. Travel to Bermuda, to Curacao. Flew with him to Venezuela regarding contracts, etc.
John Deuss in business was unbelievably demanding okay. He demanded even of himself as much as he could possibly. He demanded that you do the same.
Suzan Mazur: But you got along with him.
Max Bernegger: Oh yes. I got along with him. He challenged me a lot of times. At tennis, etc. I was a pretty good athlete myself — I’d played soccer in the National League in Switzerland when I was 15. But I was older than Deuss. He was 31. I was about 42.
I remember one day in Curacao on the way back from Venezuela. He was at the air check about 150 yards away and he challenged me to a race. I beat him. He didn’t like that. It hurt him.
I liked him in business too. But he was tough.
Suzan Mazur: Did you have any knowledge then of the bank in Curacao, First Curacao International?
Max Bernegger: I knew there was a bank. But I had nothing to do with the bank.
The charming thing about John Deuss was, the moment business was over he became private. The most unbelievable guy. Gentle. Friendly. And the most generous person I’ve ever seen.
Just to give you a quick idea. Two years ago, I went to visit Jock Ritchie [John Deuss’ role model, who also served as an officer of JOC Oil] in Florida. Jock’s wife had recently died of Alzheimer’s disease and Jock himself had become forgetful. During the visit with Jock, he told me a story about John Deuss.
Jock told me that he’d wanted to go to Scotland. And Deuss said to him, “Look don’t worry about reservations and all that. I’m going to have my pilots fly you and your wife to Scotland.” Ritchie’s wife was still alive.
And then Deuss said, “When you’re ready to come back, I’ll send the plane to bring you back.” He was generous beyond belief. A really great, wonderful guy.
Suzan Mazur: I know how special it feels. John’s pilots once flew me back alone to New York from Bermuda. I called in to the fashon house – Donald Brooks, I believe – where I was booked that day, to let them know I’d be late, and no one there would believe I was calling from a jet circling Butler Airfield. In fact, they canceled the rest of my bookings.
Max Bernegger: Of course there were times when we had differences. As a matter of fact, I once left John Deuss’ company. He was very unhappy with me about that. But it was because one time he really dressed me down. We were on the telephone with somebody sitting there hearing the whole story. I said, “I don’t need this type of thing anymore.” And I quit.
Suzan Mazur: You quit.
Max Bernegger: I quit. But John Deuss flew back immediately and tried to convince me to reconsider.
Suzan Mazur: What year was that?
Max Bernegger: 1979.
Suzan Mazur: And you stopped working with him when?
Max Bernegger: About 1979.
Suzan Mazur: What was it like trading oil at JOC in the Olympic Towers? A place of great intrigue in the 70s. Aside from Deuss’ oil company, the Arab African International Bank and Chief Executive Magazine on the 19th floor, there was Halston on the 20th floor. And on the residence side of the Towers, arms dealer Adnan Khassoggi shared a floor with Kuwait’s Alghanim family. . .
Max Bernegger: Once in the Towers, I had to learn to trade. I already knew the product from the Bayonne operation. And I knew refining. So it was somewhat easy for me to learn to trade.
Oil trading is nice. But it’s tough. You have to be very, very precise. You have to know what you’re saying. There’s no way of backing out.
And JOC Oil at the time did not have a very good performance reputation in the market place.
Suzan Mazur: I thought it was considered the most important independent oil trader in the late 1970s?
Max Bernegger: In the late 70s yes. But we’re talking now about 1974-75. We had a big struggle to start working with major oil companies like Mobil, Exxon. Phibro wouldn’t deal with us.
So I got the hang of the trading, which didn’t take very long. John Deuss gave you one month, two months to do the job.
I still remember the first Transworld Oil cargo of #2 oil sold. There were only 450,000 barrels. And they were so damned proud to do the deal. I was sweating, making sure I did everything right and proper. And then I had to start rebuilding John Deuss’ trading company, later Transworld Oil.
I established working connections with all the companies in New York. At one time we had a deal with Gulf Oil to buy 10,000 tons of aviation fuel and jet fuel in Curacao and the price in the meantime went crazy.
We had to perform. And Deuss was a little on edge and said, “How do we get out of the deal?”
And I said, “Look, John,” and Jock Ritchie was with me, “we are going to perform on this deal if it costs us a million dollars.” Our reputation was at stake. And he immediately agreed.
I did a deal where I bought Gulf Oil #2 fuel oil in Canada. Picked up some additional heating oil #2 fuel oil from the Venezuelans. And brought it to Australia. Deuss made $4.5 million on that cargo. On a small little nothing cargo.
I put those deals together one after the other. And we did incredibly well. One year I made $100 million profit for TWO.
Suzan Mazur: Can you tell me about the controversial Soviet deal in which Deuss was slow to pay for shipped Soviet oil because the Soviets failed to provide sufficient signatures on the contract?
Max Bernegger: I knew John Deuss owed money to the Soviets. He went to Moscow basically to negotiate and they took his passport away from him. And he called me from Moscow and I was working on another deal and didn’t know about this.
Deuss said, “Max, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Suzan Mazur: That was in what year?
Max Bernegger: I think it was 1975. And he said, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen here.” But somehow he went to the Dutch Consulate and got his passport back and he got out of the Soviet Union.
The only reason I think they let him go was that there were too many people in the Soviet oil company who would lose their heads if the government found out how stupid they were in their dealings with Deuss. They made some major mistakes with Letter of Credit that went beyond the date.
While the Soviets delayed the presentation of the L/C, they increased their crude oil prices — breaking the agreed upon contract — as fully loaded ships were en route to the US. John could really have told them, I don’t owe you anything.
Of course he intended to pay the Soviets. But at the time he was in real trouble. We were happy that he made it back.
Suzan Mazur: You said you don’t agree that he was one of the catalysts in the collapse of the Soviet Union. I mean he’d been an early player in the Soviet Union trading oil and also in the Arabian Gulf.
Max Bernegger: He had the connections to people in the Soviet government who make very important decisions and who were the ones in charge. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, of course, those were the guys who made the money, who were the people you talked to and tried to make deals with. That was the normal thing.
Deuss had less influence and connections in Russia than Marc Rich. Deuss had this strength because Oman was behind him.
Suzan Mazur: What more can you say about the Soviet collapse over oil?
Max Bernegger: The Soviets at that point were influencing markets because they had so much gasoline in the tanks, holding back as much as they could and then letting it loose on the market. Then, of course, the market was suddenly flooded with the stuff and the prices went down.
Suzan Mazur: Do you think Deuss was one of the catalysts in the demise of the Soviet Union?
Max Bernegger: I definitely think he probably saw the thing coming. He’s very very smart. And when the man sees an opportunity before anybody else sees it, then he will seize the opportunity and capitalize on it.
Suzan Mazur: Is Deuss his own master?
Max Bernegger: I think John Deuss is totally independent. His whole way of thinking. He’s a very unique guy who stands on his own. Who will probably make deals with anybody as long as he can profit.. He has no qualms about that. But I have never known him to be beholden to anybody or to any organization.
The only time John Deuss had very strong backing was in the 1980s with Oman. That was organized through a Shell guy. I don’t know who that guy was. [Michael Corrie who introduced spymaster Ted Shackley to John Deuss?]
But the South Africa network was organized long before Deuss knew Ted Shackley. The South African thing was something in which I was involved early on. I made the connection with the international oil company that needed oil in South Africa. But they couldn’t bring it in.
The oil came from Saudi Arabia, but was not allowed to go from Saudi Arabia into South Africa. There was an exchange okay.
The oil could not come from any of the Gulf states. They all boycotted South Africa. The refineries in South Africa were partly owned by US Majors. And they had to feed their refineries. So the deal was that they would deliver to Deuss Saudi light crude. They would sell to Deuss’ Transworld Oil Saudi crude, which TWO would sell on the world market. TWO would then supply non-Saudi crude to the South African refinery.
Deuss had a deal with a Middle East supplier where he could exchange the Saudi crude. Bring Mid Eastern crude to South Africa to a refinery, a partly-owned American refinery. It was altogether legal because it was delivered by an offshore company and by a Mid Eastern willing supplier who would close his eyes to the final destination of the crude.
Suzan Mazur: And how did you feel about world opinion regarding the South African apartheird regime?
Max Bernegger: I knew a few other trading companies that sold oil to South Africa on similar conditions. It is a lousy explanation and certainly not a moral one.
Suzan Mazur: Do you think what’s happened with the bank in Curacao – the carousel fraud VAT-skimming deposits – may have been some type of payback by the Russians for Deuss taking advantage of the missing signature contract of the 1970s?
The bulk of the 2,500 FCIB accounts in question are said to be Russian.
Max Bernegger: I don’t think so. If this was payback by the Russians, it would not have been from that time. Deuss has done deals with the Russians in between. Major deals. With Russian oil companies controlled by the government. I don’t think this was retribution.
There will always be high stakes. Whatever is behind this, which I think is more Deuss being questioned to find out what is happening and who is involved and so forth.
Suzan Mazur: Does it make sense to you that he’s being held for months without charge?
Max Bernegger: It’s totally ridiculous. He went back to Holland, his country, voluntarily to answer questions. That they would put him in custody there is ridiculous. The man is so prominent. If he wanted to flee, he could have flown from Bermuda to another country where there’s no extradition.
And it is outrageous to keep him in custody for months without indicting him and keep him at Christmas. I think they’re just putting tremendous pressure on him to come up with whatever they want to know.
Suzan Mazur: Then you have to wonder why a bank like FCIB gets shut down over financial irregularities while the big banks are maybe penalized by a fine and continue to operate.
Max Bernegger: Because it’s a little bank. If you’re a big bank, say Citibank, it’s a different story. Little banks can get shut down very easily. In the Caribbean there are other banks that are so much more secretive. They cannot be touched at all. Why they went after him, I don’t know.
John Deuss is a brilliant man. I’ve been in many, many meetings with him with lawyers. He makes lawyers look stupid. He’s so smart, so quick. He would avoid anything that would threaten him with jail. It’s all so bizarre.
Suzan Mazur: Where did you go after you left John Deuss’ TWO in 1979?
Max Bernegger: I got together with a small company in Texas and started an oil trading company in New York called Quasar Petroleum. It did extremely well. But it came to the point where we needed so much capital to trade big time that we decided we didn’t have the money to do it. We needed a few hundred million dollars with credit lines and all that.
Then I started a company where we did oil brokering. Within two years we were number two.. We did very well. Made a lot of money. I enjoyed it. It was very successful.
I was on top of the world in the fashion business. Next on top of the world in oil trading. Then on top of the world in brokering. I am 74 years old and I feel like I’m 15.
I owe John Deuss an awful lot. He brought me into the oil business and had confidence in me. He changed my life.
Suzan Mazur’s reports have appeared in the Financial Times, Economist, Forbes, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Bermuda’s Mid Ocean News, CounterPunch and Scoop, among others, as well as on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email: email@example.com
1. Steve Jobs said: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
Innovation has no limits. The only limit is your imagination. It’s time for you to begin thinking out of the box. If you are involved in a growing industry, think of ways to become more efficient; more customer friendly; and easier to do business with. If you are involved in a shrinking industry – get out of it quick and change before you become obsolete; out of work; or out of business. And remember that procrastination is not an option here. Start innovating now!
2. Steve Jobs said: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
There is no shortcut to excellence. You will have to make the commitment to make excellence your priority. Use your talents, abilities, and skills in the best way possible and get ahead of others by giving that little extra. Live by a higher standard and pay attention to the details that really do make the difference. Excellence is not difficult – simply decide right now to give it your best shot – and you will be amazed with what life gives you back.
3. Steve Jobs said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
I’ve got it down to four words: “Do what you love.” Seek out an occupation that gives you a sense of meaning, direction and satisfaction in life. Having a sense of purpose and striving towards goals gives life meaning, direction and satisfaction. It not only contributes to health and longevity, but also makes you feel better in difficult times. Do you jump out of bed on Monday mornings and look forward to the work week? If the answer is ‘no’ keep looking, you’ll know when you find it.
4. Steve Jobs said: “You know, we don’t grow most of the food we eat. We wear clothes other people make. We speak a language that other people developed. We use a mathematics that other people evolved… I mean, we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool of human experience and knowledge.”
Live in a way that is ethically responsible. Try to make a difference in this world and contribute to the higher good. You’ll find it gives more meaning to your life and it’s a great antidote to boredom. There is always so much to be done. And talk to others about what you are doing. Don’t preach or be self-righteous, or fanatical about it, that just puts people off, but at the same time, don’t be shy about setting an example, and use opportunities that arise to let others know what you are doing.
5. Steve Jobs said: “Be entrepreneurial.”
Look for the next big thing. Find a set of ideas that need to be quickly and decisively acted upon and jump through that window. Sometimes the first step is the hardest one. Just take it! Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
6. Steve Jobs said: “Do your best.”
Do your best at every job. No sleep! Success generates more success. So be hungry for it.
7. Steve Jobs said: “I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.”
Don’t equate making mistakes with being a mistake. There is no such thing as a successful person who has not failed or made mistakes, there are successful people who made mistakes and changed their lives or performance in response to them, and so got it right the next time. They viewed mistakes as warnings rather than signs of hopeless inadequacy. Never making a mistake means never living life to the full.
8. Steve Jobs said: “Ask for feedback.”
Ask for feedback from people with diverse backgrounds. Each one will tell you one useful thing. If you’re at the top of the chain, sometimes people won’t give you honest feedback because they’re afraid. In this case, disguise yourself, or get feedback from other sources. Focus on those who will use your product – listen to your customers first.
9. Steve Jobs said: “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?”
Strive to be a market leader. Own and control the primary technology in everything you do. If there’s a better technology available, use it no matter if anyone else is not using it. Be the first, and make it an industry standard.
10. Steve Jobs said: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Are you tired of living someone else’s dream? No doubt, its your life and you have every right to spend it in your own individual way without any hurdles or barriers from others. Give yourself a chance to nurture your creative qualities in a fear-free and pressure-free climate. Live a life that YOU choose and be your own boss.
Each lesson might be difficult to integrate into your life at first, but if you ease your way into each lesson, one at a time, you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your overall performance. So go ahead, give them a try.
President Barack Obama was among the many people who paid tribute to Steve Jobs, calling the Apple co-founder a visionary and great American innovator.
“Steve was among the greatest of American innovators — brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it,” Obama said of Jobs, who died on Wednesday.
“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”
The president was joined by political, technology, entertainment and business leaders around the world in paying tribute to Jobs. A selection:
BILL GATES, MICROSOFT CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN
“Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor.”
RUPERT MURDOCH, CEO OF NEWS CORP
“Today, we lost one of the most influential thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs of all time. Steve Jobs was simply the greatest CEO of his generation. While I am deeply saddened by his passing, I’m reminded of the stunning impact he had in revolutionizing the way people consume media and entertainment.”
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK FOUNDER AND CEO, ON FACEBOOK
“Steve, thank you for being a mentor and a friend. Thanks for showing that what you build can change the world. I will miss you.”
SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS CHIEF EXECUTIVE, G.S. CHOI
“Chairman Steve Jobs introduced numerous revolutionary changes to the information technology industry and was a great entrepreneur. His innovative spirit and remarkable accomplishments will forever be remembered by people around the world.”
SONY CEO HOWARD STRINGER
“The digital age has lost its leading light, but Steve’s innovation and creativity will inspire dreamers and thinkers for generations.”
AT&T CHAIRMAN AND CEO RANDALL STEPHENSON
“Steve was an iconic inventor, visionary, and entrepreneur, and we had the privilege to know him as partner and friend.”
BOB IGER, CEO OF WALT DISNEY CO
“Steve Jobs was a great friend as well as a trusted advisor. His legacy will extend far beyond the products he created or the businesses he built. It will be the millions of people he inspired, the lives he changed, and the culture he defined. Steve was such an ‘original,’ with a thoroughly creative, imaginative mind that defined an era. Despite all he accomplished, it feels like he was just getting started.”
MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL, ON TWITTER
“Steve Jobs is an inspiration to American entrepreneurs. He will be missed.”
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR, ON TWITTER
“Steve lived the California Dream every day of his life and he changed the world and inspired all of us.”
MASAYOSHI SON, FOUNDER OF SOFTBANK, JAPAN’S NO.3 MOBILE PHONE SERVICE OPERATOR
“Steve was truly a genius of our time, a man with a rare ability to fuse art and technology. In centuries from now, he will be remembered alongside Leonardo da Vinci.”
MARK CUBAN, ENTREPRENEUR, ON TWITTER
“The PC era is officially over. #RIP #STEVEJOBS
INVESTOR MARC ANDREESSEN
“Steve was the best of the best. Like Mozart and Picasso, he may never be equaled.”
PAUL ALLEN, CO-FOUNDER OF MICROSOFT
“We’ve lost a unique tech pioneer and auteur who knew how to make amazingly great products. Steve fought a long battle against tough odds in a very brave way. He kept doing amazing things in the face of all that adversity.
MICHAEL DELL, CEO OF DELL INC
“Today the world lost a visionary leader, the technology industry lost an iconic legend and I lost a friend and fellow founder. The legacy of Steve Jobs will be remembered for generations to come.”
LARRY PAGE, CEO OF GOOGLE, ON GOOGLE+
“He was a great man with incredible achievements and amazing brilliance. He always seemed to be able to say in very few words what you actually should have been thinking before you thought it. His focus on the user experience above all else has always been an inspiration to me.”
STEVE CASE, FOUNDER OF AOL, ON TWITTER
“I feel honored to have known Steve Jobs. He was the most innovative entrepreneur of our generation. His legacy will live on for the ages.”
JEFF BEWKES, CEO OF TIME WARNER
“The world is a better place because of Steve, and the stories our company tells have been made richer by the products he created. He was a dynamic and fearless competitor, collaborator, and friend. In a society that has seen incredible technological innovation during our lifetimes, Steve may be the one true icon whose legacy will be remembered for a thousand years.”
DICK COSTOLO, CEO OF TWITTER, ON TWITTER
“Once in a rare while, somebody comes along who doesn’t just raise the bar, they create an entirely new standard of measurement. #RIPSteveJobs”
ARTHUR SULZBERGER, CHAIRMAN OF THE NEW YORK TIMES CO
“Steve Jobs was a visionary and a wonderful friend of The New York Times. He pushed the boundaries of how all providers of news and information interact with our users. I am among the many who deeply regret his passing.”
JOHN RICCITIELLO, CEO OF ELECTRONIC ARTS
“Steve was one of a kind. For many of us working in technology and entertainment, Steve was a new kind of hero that lead with big, bold moves and would not settle for less than perfection. He is the best role model for a leader that aspires to be great.”
JOHN LASSETER AND ED CATMULL, CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER AND PRESIDENT, WALT DISNEY and PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIOS
“Steve … saw the potential of what Pixar could be before the rest of us, and beyond what anyone ever imagined. Steve took a chance on us and believed in our crazy dream of making computer animated films; the one thing he always said was to simply ‘make it great.’ He is why Pixar turned out the way we did and his strength, integrity and love of life has made us all better people. He will forever be a part of Pixar’s DNA.”
SPIKE LEE, PRODUCER/DIRECTOR/ACTOR, ON TWITTER
“VISIONARIES are always called CRAZY in the beginning. A VISIONARY sees things that everybody else says is IMPOSSIBLE, sees a World that People can’t invision (sic)-MAC, IPOD, IPAD, IPHONE, ITUNES and PIXAR. I have nothing but Love for Mr. Jobs and Apple, they have always given me and my films L-O-V-E. Peace and Blessings to his family.”
The Meaning of Steve Jobs
What You Can Learn From a Man Who Changed the World Five Times
By: Josh Bernoff August 24, 2011
So, Steve Jobs is gone — resigned as CEO of Apple.
Consider, for a moment, the meaning of Steve.
By my count, Steve Jobs changed the world five times. Five.
He introduced the Apple II when I was a teenager. Sure, there were Altairs before, but there were no “personal” computers — such a thing was unimaginable. After that, we knew anyone could own a computer. That changed everything.
He introduced the Macintosh when I was working at Software Arts, the company that created the first spreadsheet, VisiCalc. I remember the Mac’s predecessor, the Lisa — we had one in a special room behind a locked door. My 24-year-old mind saw it and boggled — this was a completely different way to use a computer. Mouse, windows, icons, graphical UI — and I saw what happened when children started playing with it and using “Paint.” This would change everything. And it did. Sure, there was Xerox PARC, but it was Steve Jobs that changed everything.
After Jobs left Apple, it went way downhill, eventually under the unimaginative Gil Amelio. I actually wrote a piece about it for Forrester Research, with a heading that read “Wake Up and Smell the Toast.” Toast it would have been, but Jobs came back.
When Apple introduced the iPod, the interface on the hardware was a revelation. Still, the iPod was just another music player until Jobs made iTunes happen. ITunes changed everything. The music industry turned inside out. A new device, microprocessor controlled, caught fire — probably the first really significant one since the game console. Sure, there had been MP3 devices from the likes of Creative, but Steve Jobs changed the world — made us realize what a cool device connected to a cool service could do. He changed the world again.
The iPhone changed the world. It changed the dynamics of the phone industry — it was subsidized, but Apple controlled the interface, not the carriers. It became your real-time, all-the-time portal to the world, in your pocket. The apps, the multitouch interface — another revelation. It changed the world yet again — now, increasingly, we all have devices like this in our pockets.
The iPad was the fifth change. It’s destroying the PC industry with a new mode of interaction.
(If you want to stretch it, Pixar changed a whole industry, too. Call it five-and-a-half times.)
Nobody else comes close.
Bill Gates changed the world twice — once with DOS and once with Windows.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page changed it once, with Google.
David Sarnoff once, with color TV.
Tim Berners-Lee and then Marc Andreessen once, with the web and the browser.
Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston once, with the spreadsheet.
No entrepreneur changes the whole world five times. Not since Edison, at last.
You can admit that Steve is out of all of our leagues. But what is the meaning of Steve? What can we learn?
1. Strategy. See the whole board. The content companies, the carriers, the hardware manufacturers, the engineers, the patents. Jobs saw not just what was possible, but what industries would be affected and how to bully, cajole, sweet-talk and persuade them into working with him.
2. Timing. As I mentioned, Jobs, was often not the first. But he saw what technologies were on the verge of being possible — and what technologies consumers were ready to accept. There could have been no iPhone without the habits created by iPods and BlackBerry, no Mac without Apple and IBM PCs embraced by those who came before. Timing is crucial.
3. Supply chain and differentiation. Apple doesn’t make flash memory, microprocessors, touchscreens or, for the most part, websites. It just puts them all together. Profit margin comes from assembling commodities in a fantastic, must-have package.
4. Design. Apple’s products are the first family of computing devices that tell people about your style. The other ingredient is lots of advertising. Design plus advertising equals lust. Lust is good for an entrepreneur.
5. Audacity. Imagine the impossible, possible. Persuade with showmanship. Make people believe.
None of us has all of these. But you, reading this, have some of them. You can be audacious and have great timing. You could excel at strategy and design. You can’t be Steve Jobs. But you can learn from him. Work on it. If you want to change the world, now you know where to start.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Reality TV
I’m not much of a television person, but my family loves one of the popular “reality” shows, called “So You Think You Can Dance,” so I’m sort of forced to watch it every week on Fox. Over time, I’ve concluded that even startup entrepreneurs can learn a few things from this one. Of course, you must ignore the pomp and circumstance of the TV staging.
I’m on the selection committee of our local angels group, so I know that every CEO approaching our group for funding goes through ten minutes of creative “dancing,” to give us a basis for selecting startups that are most qualified and “ready” to proceed to the next level. If selected, they go through it again in the real meeting of 20-40 investors. It’s tough and not fun for either side.
The business “dance” obviously has different particulars than TV dancing, but there is serious business and artistry involved in both cases. Here are some observations I can offer to startup founders looking for funding, analogous to the aspiring dancers on the show, hoping to move to the next level:
Judges evaluate the person first. Investors want to look the CEO in the eye, and be convinced that he or she can lead the company to success – it’s more important than the creative idea. On the TV show, I’m sure you all see contenders that have lost before they start, just because they lack the enthusiasm, presence, and confidence of a winner.
You only get a few minutes to make the case. In fact, your case is usually won or lost in the first couple of minutes. In business, as on the show, wins can turn to a loss if you bungle or skip relevant basics in the short time allotted. Everyone wants a longer time or second chance to win you back, but it would rarely ever change anything.
Skip the bravado, but don’t be immobilized with fear. I subscribe to a quote from another TV show too old to mention, where the hero said “He who is not afraid – he’s a fool.” Let your adrenalin help you deliver an outstanding performance, but trying to wow investors with jokes or stories of unending success will not move you up a level.
Play to the audience in front of you, and adapt your message. If the panel is looking for value and return for the investor, skip the technology pitch, or customer sales pitch. Some entrepreneurs give the same talk, no matter what the audience. If you have only one dance, don’t be surprised if it wears thin quickly with the judges.
Dress appropriately and professionally. Under-dressed may impress on TV, but it’s better to be over-dressed in the business world. Business casual is the standard for investor presentations. Remember that most investors are from a generation where faded and torn jeans were on the wrong side of success in business.
Practice, practice, practice. Even if you are an experienced dancer, you practice your craft with renewed determination before a big show. Business entrepreneurs need to do the same thing, maybe in “presidential debate” style with their team for critics, until they master the timing and can handle every unanticipated slip or challenge.
Even though I’m certainly no expert on dancing (I’ve taken Beginning Ballroom Dancing three times now), most of the reviews I have seen call the TV show realistic, with the panel of judges giving reasonable critical and technical feedback. That’s a welcome relief from Donald Trump’s pompous calls on “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Depending on one’s perspective, this is either the perfect time or an awful one to start a business. So, if you plan to face a business version of the dancing challenge soon, watch the show and check the recommendations above. Show some energy and enthusiasm, and don’t let the technical steps required overshadow your creativity. Break a leg!
Friday, August 12, 2011 founder
Startups, Avoid 10 Common Million-Dollar Mistakes
It’s a well-accepted axiom in the investor community that entrepreneurs learn more from their failures than their successes. Thus a well-explained startup failure often can actually improve your odds of funding in the next go-round. Yet, there is no doubt that the best strategy is to learn from someone else’s mistakes, so you can enjoy the millions that someone else lost in learning.
Certainly there are innumerable possible mistakes to be made, but there is a thread of common ones that I see across the range of all startups. Ryan Blair, a serial entrepreneur who admits to his share of million dollar mistakes, as well as some multi-million dollar successes, sums these up nicely in his current bestseller “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain:”
Don’t make wildly optimistic sales forecasts. Test and adjust your projections, based on experienced advisor input and industry norms, rather than the Google high exception. Excel spreadsheets can easily project dramatic growth, with no connection to reality.
Don’t hire people who like your ideas all the time. Flattery feels good, but it doesn’t pay the bills. Look for the thoughtful challenge to your ideas, and practice active listening, when you are selling your vision. High three-digit intelligence has value.
Don’t focus too much on the competition. It’s always more productive to focus on making your offering successful, rather than killing your competitors. Doing things like dismantling their leadership team, or highlighting their shortcomings is lose-lose.
Don’t waste time caring what others think. No matter how hard you try, you won’t make everyone happy. Don’t be afraid to follow your vision, learn from your mistakes, and pivot the business, just because someone will see the change as a disappointment.
Don’t mix business with pleasure. This is especially true of relationships. Do not fraternize with your employees, and choose your partners wisely. Thou shall not “do your business” where you do business.
Be quick to fire and slow to hire. Pull the trigger fast when a new hire isn’t working, but don’t forget to be human and follow all the steps. On the other side, hiring after one interview is like hopping a red-eye to Vegas to get married after one date.
Don’t put your company before your people. A company is an entity that can be pivoted at will. Your team of people has a collective passion and intelligence with a real worth that’s hard to manipulate. Make the company fit the people, rather than vice versa.
Don’t under-forecast cash needs. When you have people and their families depending on you for their paychecks, and you are out of money, that’s another lose-lose situation. Even if you can find someone willing to help, it’s a very, very expensive proposition.
Don’t try to do too much all at once. You hear about all the parallel entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs running Apple and Pixar at the same time. Make sure you have the aptitude to run one business well, with one product line, before you start a couple more.
Never write something you wouldn’t want to come back to you. Every one of us has sent a sensitive email to the wrong party, or had it misinterpreted by the receiver. Save the hard and easily misinterpreted messages for face-to-face calm discussions.
There are more, but I think you get the idea. Of course, the biggest mistake is failing to learn from the mistakes of others, or even from your mistakes. You can only learn from your mistake after you admit you’ve made it. Wise people admit their mistakes easily, and move the focus away from blame management and towards learning. Wise people can become great entrepreneurs. Where are you along this spectrum?
Thursday, August 11, 2011
7 Skills Not Found at Birth in Most Entrepreneurs
Many people believe that good entrepreneurs are naturally born, rather than trained or experienced in the art of business. I believe there is a natural born component required, but often I tend to agree with Peter Drucker, who said “It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious, and it has nothing to do with genes. It’s a discipline, and like any discipline, it can be learned.”
On the natural born side, some entrepreneurs seem to have a strong vision and the ability to inspirationally lead others. It is this vision that is the beacon to drive the right people behavior, leading to the success of the business. If you don’t feel a vision in your heart, or if you don’t have the strength to inspire people, entrepreneurship is probably the wrong road for you.
If you feel you have the vision characteristics, you still could benefit from some of the key learnable skills that can improve the success and impact of every entrepreneur, assembled from an interview with Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines and other executives:
Ability to set priorities and focus on goals. Many people allow themselves to be driven by the crisis of the moment. Personal discipline is the key word here. Set yourself some priorities and goals, and live by them.
Able to identify important issues. Some people call this common sense; others call it “street smarts.” In the normal startup environment, there are multiple forces competing for your attention every day, and you need to learn to delegate or ignore many. It relates back to experience and knowledge, more than genes.
Conviction to be a passionate advocate. When you believe in something enough to turn your passion into action, you have become an advocate. That power and voice is then used to persuade others to make the correct decision. An effective advocate requires conviction, usually acquired during related first hand experience or training.
Broad knowledge and experience. Experience allows one to tackle challenges with confidence in a given area. Broad knowledge facilitates the same success in other business areas. Entrepreneurs need this, because their challenges are across the spectrum from technical to legal, operational, financial, and organizational.
Active listening skills. Above all, the ability to listen and understand the real meaning of what people are saying (and not saying) is paramount, because the most important information never arrives in reports or email. Some people pick this up from experience, and others find classroom courses most helpful in setting the focus.
Sound judgment. I don’t think anyone is born with sound judgment; it has to be learned, but can be started at a very early age. Every entrepreneur must have the capacity to assess situations or circumstances shrewdly and to draw proper conclusions.
Pleasant skepticism. Skepticism is not doubting, but applying reason and critical thinking to determine validity. It’s the process of searching for a supportable conclusion, as opposed to justifying a preconceived conclusion. It is a learned skill.
These all revolve around the larger theme of team building. In short, to succeed, the entrepreneur must see and articulate a vision in order to attract and motivate a team, then be able to identify the key issues, challenge the views held within the team, and make judgments from among the varying perspectives in the team.
Every entrepreneur enters the game with a unique combination of genes and skills. If the things mentioned here feel natural to you, and you are young at heart, have a healthy curiosity and zest for life, the entrepreneurial world may have a place for you, too. Give it a try. If you are having fun, you probably have what it takes.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
You Built a Great Startup, But Can You Scale It?
Once you are able to achieve some real “traction” with your business (paying customers, revenue stream), it may seem the time to relax a bit, but in fact this is the point where many founders start to flounder. All the skills and instincts you needed to get to this level can actually start working against you, and you can fail to scale.
Investors often say that successfully navigating the early stages of a startup requires lots of street smarts, guts, and luck. For successful scaling of the business, there has to be a transition to “executive” mode in the more traditional business sense. Certain behaviors between these two modes are incompatible, and can cause real problems.
Way back in 2002, John Hamm published some early work on this subject in “Why Entrepreneurs Don’t Scale” in the Harvard Business Review. Here is my interpretation of that work, incorporating my personal experience, identifying some strengths of an entrepreneur during early startup stages which can become a problem for scaling:
Perseverance. This is generally a required quality for a successful entrepreneur, but it can turn into an unhealthy stubbornness during the scaling stage. The key is to make decisions from data and feedback, once your business has real customers and real products. Trusting your gut at this stage isn’t good enough.
Absolute control. During the early stages, you are the company, processes are not documented, you don’t have much help, so you need a fanatical attention to detail. To scale the business, you have to find people who can do the tasks, and delegate appropriately. Control freaks are doomed to failure.
Individual loyalty. Most founders form very close relationships with the small team that gets the startup off the ground, and that is important. Scaling requires that you expand the team, probably with people you haven’t known. You also have to deal with the inevitable personnel challenges, even within the original team. Total loyalty can be toxic.
Isolated and insulated. Working in isolation is fine during the creative phase of the startup, where the founder is often the designer and architect, as well as the builder. Now this same individual has to step into the spotlight, and meet with customers, analysts, and investors. Insulation from the real world will not work during scaling.
Tactical versus strategic. Early stage startup founders have to think tactically. Even business school courses don’t teach you to operate strategically, deal with people objectively, and create loyalty within a diverse workforce. These are areas where past stumbles are the best teachers. Investors don’t want to fund your stumbles.
Every founder moving into the executive role has to step back and take a hard look at what works, and what doesn’t work. The best ones can do that, and they adapt. Investors and advisors see this as a critical part of their role, and often are the “bad guys” who ask the founder to step aside, while they bring in a “more experienced” CEO to take over the helm.
Unfortunately, some founders won’t adapt, and won’t step aside. Even if they are pushed out, they can cause terminal damage to the business by negative versions of their strengths, now seen as stubbornness, unwillingness to give up control, testing loyalty, and hiding from reality.
Thus my best recommendation, if you want to scale and to survive, is to open up and work closely with an “outsider” that you trust, such as a respected board member, a coach, a mentor, or an investor. The key is to expedite your learning, and take deliberate steps to confront your shortcomings. That way, you will become the leader your company needs, learn to stop floundering, and begin to fly.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Eight Ways to be Your Own Worst Enemy for Funding
A while back I received a discouraging note from an entrepreneur with a patent and a medical software application who couldn’t find a dime of investment, and was grousing that seed funding just wasn’t available anymore. After exchanging a couple of notes, I concluded that she was more likely a victim of item #1 on my reject list below, rather than a drought on seed funding.
Too many people still believe the urban myth that you can sketch your idea on a napkin, and people will throw money at you. Fundraising is indeed brutally tough at all stages, and the seed funding is the hardest to find. The simple answer is that if you need funding, do your homework early and completely.
I seem to see common threads in the stories from people who don’t get money, so I checked my list against ones quoted in a recent book by Barry H. Cohen and Michael Rybarski, titled “Start-Up Smarts.” We agree on issues we see sabotaging most funding efforts, in decreasing priority sequence:
Lack of a compelling story. That story has to begin with a painful problem shared by a large collection of viable customers, with your competitive solution. Additionally, you need to be able to communicate the essence that story and value to investors in a couple of sentences – your elevator pitch.
Lack of clear objectives/goals. Often, the number one question that entrepreneurs fail to address is: “How much money do you need, and what valuation do you place on your company?” Then you have to have evidence to support your request. I’ve asked this question many times of presenters in angel meetings, and often get a blank look.
Failure to prepare for due diligence. Any serious investor will perform a thorough review of your business and personal background before signing the check. They don’t like surprises, so you should explain any possible issues first, in the best possible light, before being asked.
Lack of understanding of the funding process/rules. The key here is to create a win-win partner situation for your investors. Discussion of risks and rewards in an open fashion, without sleight-of-hand or shortcuts, will convince investors that they can count on you, and will avoid shareholder lawsuits later.
Reliance on inappropriate business professionals. Using well-respected professionals to bolster your endeavor is key. If you can attract well-known advisors, attorneys, and accountants, it will give potential investors comfort that you have been able to get implied endorsement of your concept, as well as your integrity.
Poor choice of funding sources. It is not helpful to you for funders to love an idea that does not fit the criteria for their investing capability. Don’t waste time talking to VCs for requests less than $1M, or very early stage, and don’t expect professional investors to jump in if you have no “skin in the game.”
Not doing due diligence on the funding source. You need to complete due diligence on your prospective funders as they complete due diligence on you. Find out what they have invested in recently, what stage, and what is their track record of expectations and follow-through. You don’t need surprises or disappointments either.
Being unprepared for the next steps. After a good elevator pitch or initial presentation, investors will ask for your formal business plan and financial projections. Don’t derail their enthusiasm or risk your professional image by not having these materials immediately available. The same thing goes for incorporating your company, having key hires lined up, and facilities arranged as required.
There are many others opportunities for you to shoot yourself in the foot. Rather than play the victim, you can be proactive on all these items, and stay one step ahead of your “competitors” in professionalism, timing, and preparation. The resources are out there to help you, like the book mentioned, this blog, and many more. Use them and win.
Monday, August 8, 2011
The Power of Negative Events in Your Startup
Managing and motivating a team in a startup is more than just using the right interpersonal skills. It’s more than providing recognition, tangible incentives, and clear work goals. A key influencer of satisfaction and motivation, top-ranked by employees, is positive progress and the completion of meaningful work. Sometimes you have to manage progress, not people.
“Busy work” and “grunt work” are deadly terms in a startup environment. So are setbacks, project cancellations, and frequent changes of direction that make people doubt that the work they are doing will ever see the light of day. These points are illustrated in detail in “The Progress Principle,” a new book from the Harvard Business School, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.
They explain that work progress and setbacks matter so much because one of the most basic human drives is toward a person’s belief that he or she is individually capable of planning and executing the tasks required to achieve desired goals (self-efficacy).
Negative events cause uncertainty, doubt, or confusion in people’s sense of themselves, and lowers their motivation for the work. In fact, an analysis of thousands of detailed logs from employees show that setbacks have more power to sway work satisfaction than progress:
The effect of setbacks on emotions is stronger than the effect of progress. The power of setbacks to diminish happiness appears to be more than twice as strong as the power of progress to boost happiness. The power of setbacks to increase frustration is more than three times as strong as the power of progress to decrease frustration.
Small losses can overwhelm small wins. The asymmetry between the power of setbacks and progress events appears to apply even to relatively minor triggers. Similarly, small everyday hassles hold more sway than small everyday assists. Any manager’s job description should start with facilitating subordinates progress every day.
Negative leader behaviors affect work satisfaction for everyone. Managers should avoid actions that negate the value of work in progress. One way is dismissing a team member’s work, or changing priorities arbitrarily, or inadequate communication. Don’t assign people who are clearly unqualified, or over-qualified, to a task.
Failure to facilitate progress and remove obstacles. Consistent daily progress by individual employees fuels both the success of the organization and the quality of those employees inner work lives. This progress principle should be the driving force and the number one objective of every leader.
Other types of negative events – not just setbacks – are more powerful than their mirror-image positive events. Based on employee logs, the connection between mood and negative events is about five times stronger than the connection between mood and positive events. Employees recall more negative leader actions than positive actions.
People often say, “it’s business, it’s not personal.” But work is personal. If people feel capable, then they see difficult problems as positive challenges and opportunities to succeed. Put another way, they develop a “sense of empowerment.” This need grows throughout their career as people compare their achievement with those of their peers as well as their own “personal best.”
As an example, entrepreneurs often have great difficulty relinquishing top leadership positions when their companies have grown beyond their own management capacities, because they have invested so much of their personal identities in what they have built.
In many cases, only you as the founder can remove barriers to progress, such as meaningless tasks and toxic relationships, before they disrupt employee motivation and productivity. Only you can activate the positive forces that enable progress, including “catalysts” and “nourishers.” Start today in your own startup, to eliminate the negatives, as well as accentuate the positive.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Startups Can Make You Work Hard and Still Be Happy
Building a startup is hard work for low pay, it’s risky, and it requires total responsibility to make it work. Yet, many entrepreneurs are the happiest people I know. On the other hand, I know many unhappy individuals who are always partying, have minimal commitments, and little responsibility. I suspect the real parameters of happiness have eluded these people.
According to one of my favorite authors, Brian Tracy, in his book “The Power of Self-Discipline,” happiness is not even a goal that you can aim at and achieve in and of itself, but it is a by-product that comes to you when you are engaged in doing something you really enjoy while in the company of people you like and respect.
He defines the five key ingredients of happiness that every potential and existing entrepreneur (and every person) should evaluate relative to their own situation:
Happy relationships. Fully 85 percent of your happiness – or unhappiness – will come from your relationships with other people. For entrepreneurs, that includes business colleagues, but it also still includes spouse, children and friends.
Meaningful work. You must be doing things that you love and give you a sense of fulfillment, as well as making a contribution. Studies have shown that the three most motivating business factors include challenging work, opportunities for growth, and pleasant coworkers.
Financial independence. The happiest of all people are those who have reached the point at which they no longer worry about money. That doesn’t mean unlimited funds, but enough that they don’t fear being destitute, without funds, or dependent on others.
Health and energy. It is only when you enjoy high levels of pain-free health and a continuous flow of energy that you feel truly happy. For many, health is only a “deficiency need,” meaning you don’t think much about it until you are deprived of it.
Self-actualization. This is the big one, the feeling that you are becoming everything you are capable of becoming. Before this can happen, you must first feel that all deficiency needs are satisfied, and you have achieved self-esteem:
Survival. Basic survival is the top deficiency need, meaning sufficient food, water, clothing, and shelter to preserve your life and well-being. You cannot be happy, and you will experience tremendous stress, until survival requirements are met.
Security. The second deficiency need encompasses financial, emotional, and physical security. You have to have enough money, security in your relationships, and physical security to assure that you are not in imminent jeopardy of any kind.
Belongingness. The final deficiency need reminds us that we are social people, and we need social relationships with others, both at home and at work. You need to be recognized and accepted by other people who count in your world.
Self-esteem. Your self-esteem is the core of your personality and largely determines how you feel about everything that happens to you. Are you liked and appreciated by peers, doing a good job and being recognized for it, and achieving your ideals?
According to Abraham Maslow, a noted psychologist, less than two percent of the population ever reaches this height of self-actualization and personal fulfillment. But the wonderful thing about self-actualization needs is that they never need to be completely satisfied. As you stretch yourself in this direction, you experience a steady flow of happiness and contentment.
In all of these areas, you need to exert self-discipline and willpower to overcome the tendency to take shortcuts. When you keep going in spite of all obstacles and hardships, you feel powerful. Your self-esteem and self-confidence increase, and then as you move, step by step, toward your ideals, you feel genuinely happy. Are you a happy entrepreneur?