Music Often Reflects Business

Like much entertainment, music often reflects the realities of life and business. 


This week, we check in with Mark Oldman, entrepreneur, Inc. contributor, and author. He finds many parallels between the lyrics of Neil Peart’s Rush band and the company he co-founded, Vault.com.


As many of you know, Peart died last month. Oldman has been a loyal follower of Neil Peart and Rush for many years. His recent article is a tribute to the ideas reflected in Rush’s songs. It also catalogs many of the lessons he’s learned in business. You’ll find parallels to Ami Kassar’s experience, which we discussed here.


What makes a song popular? It’s usually its reflection of realities in life and/or business.


The lessons Mark relates to Rush’s lyrics are:

1. “Resist safety”.

2. Pursue your passion.

3. Choose complementary co-founders.

4. Progress is incremental.

5. Say no.

6. Prepare to pivot.

7. Assume control.

Oldman selects a passage from one of Rush’s songs to illustrate each principle. Common themes for them are:

  • Control your destiny.
  • Find what excites you – and focus on it.
  • Pay attention to what the market is telling you, and be prepared to react. The best reaction may be saying no to an apparent opportunity (shiny object).

Enjoy Mark’s comparisons between Neil Peart’s music and the realities of business.

How Do You React to Frustrations?

This week, we again visit Jim Riviello, who takes up the idea of the “Teflon leader” in this 23-minute podcast. It’s well worth listening to. The idea is to let things “slide off”.

Jim reminds us that we are never responsible for what others say or do. We are responsible solely for our reaction to those things.


He recommends making two lists of things that trigger us – “set us off”. 


One of those lists should be for the things in business that bother you. Maybe an employee does something irresponsible. Or someone is late, or doesn’t show up, for an appointment. Perhaps the weather interrupts some project you’re trying to finish.


The other list is for things in your personal life that set you off. It could be something your spouse does. Or how about a teenage son or daughter? Kids often trigger parents with their behavior. Some delight in doing that. Maybe it’s traffic delays – very frustrating for many. Only you know what bothers you most. Be honest with yourself in making these lists.


Now take those lists, and think about the items – what bothers you about them? Do this in a calm moment. Consider how you might react in a more rational way than you usually do. List ways of reacting rationally to each one. Just making the list is very effective. When you’re consciously aware of something, you’re well on the way to addressing it.


Then watch for those triggers in daily life, and catch your anger rising when they occur. Force yourself to settle down and react as you imagined when you were thinking calmly. As with any behavior change, this takes practice. You’ll get better, though certainly not perfect – as Jim reminds us, we’re human! Keep working to improve – you will!


Jim calls this method “catch-n-release”. Catch yourself reacting angrily, and  release it.

Thinking of Starting a Company?

What makes an entrepreneur successful?


Of course that question could have about a million answers! 


One might also ask, “What makes an entrepreneur fail?” Again, many possible answers.


Ami Kassar started his company, MultiFunding, 10 years ago. He’s endured and persevered through the usual ups and downs in a start-up company. Here he describes ten of what he considers the most important lessons he’s learned. In his bio, it’s mentioned that he’s written a book. Strangely, the title of the book is omitted from the bio. It’s The Growth Dilemma. Of course, it’s available on Amazon.


Many of these lessons we’ve discussed here over the years. I’ll comment on a few of them.

6. Live your values — and build a team that shares them.
7. Love what you do — or it’s not worth it.

For me, these two concepts are centrally important for business…and for life in general.If you’re doing something that misaligns with who you are and your core beliefs, you’re being inauthentic. Being inauthentic is always a recipe for trouble.Of course there will be chores you find unpleasant. Sometimes you can delegate those chores to someone who enjoys doing them, and does them well. Often you just have to bite the bullet and do a job you don’t enjoy. As the leader, you often have to say, “The buck stops here”.Find satisfaction and joy in the result you’re producing. That’s the key concept here. Usually that means, among other things, that you’re bringing someone great value.


1. Join a peer group.
8. Keep mentors close.


These two together remind us that asking for and accepting help and advice is important. Trying to do any new thing without that is far more difficult than it needs to be. And…as has often been said, it’s “lonely at the top”. A supportive person to talk with can be just what you need when the going gets tough.Everyone needs a coach! Scroll down to the middle of that page to skip all the extra stuff I was then including!


2. Don’t be a jerk.
10. Transparency wins the day.


Treating people the way you want to be treated is important. This includes customers, employees, suppliers, and others. And remember to think about how they want to be treated. In some cases it may be different from how you want to be treated.


9. Celebrate victories along the way.


In any endeavor, it’s valuable to congratulate yourself on your wins. Learn from your losses but don’t dwell on them.


Kassar fleshes out these ideas, and a few others, from his own personal journey. Enjoy!

Why Would You Stop Selling a Lucrative Product?

As I contemplated the strong response last week’s issue generated, I explored more of Simon Sinek‘s work.


Here’s a story of CVS, the big pharmacy company, eliminating tobacco sales. The hit to revenue would be $4 billion per year. A smart move? The financial pundits didn’t think so. They look at monthly or quarterly numbers as finite outcomes.
Sinek suggests that business, and life, are infinite games.


CVS’ motto was, “Helping people on their path to better health.” How does that fit with selling cigarettes? Their leaders decided it didn’t!


CVS’ earnings per share dropped initially by almost 10%. A year later, EPS had increased by 70% from just before they announced their decision.


Business decisions that align with one’s purpose work! Business is an infinite game! What happens next month, next quarter, next year, matters less than what happens in the longer term.

All around us are examples of people or companies winning by making courageous decisions. Examples:

  • CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco – 70% improvement in EPS.
  • Our colonial forefathers’ switch from communal production to an individual incentive system. The flagging economy came to life!
  • Chobani Yogurt’s immigrant CEO challenged established business rules. A failed yogurt producer saved! (Here’s that story).
  • W.L. Gore (maker of Gore-Tex) operates with no assigned managers (Read about that here).

Uncourageous short-sighted decisions, with disastrous results, are also legend:

  • VW doctoring emissions test results. Very expensive, CEO fired!
  • Boeing rushing the 737X to market, short cutting pilot training requirements. The jury’s still out on that one – it could kill the company.
  • Theranos’ “Ponzi” scheme (Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of that story – it did kill the company.)

My friend and mentor Brian Tracy says (paraphrased): “Following the leader may work out. Following the follower is usually disastrous! It’s best to be the leader”.

“What” Drives Us to Buy Something?

Simon Sinek is an author, visionary thinker and “unshakable optimist”. 


My search for high performance teams and people brought me to this  wonderful TED Talk. Sinek explores what makes people or companies stand out among their peers. The talk is 18 minutes long, longer than I like to send you to. 


It’s entertaining.


It’s inspiring and unique in its “discovery”. (True visionaries among you may be less surprised.) 


I think it’s worth the time. I hope you agree.


He asks:

  • Why is Apple so creative and consistently a leader in the computer business? Others have access to the same resources Apple has. Except for one!
  • Why could Martin Luther King Jr. attract a quarter of a million people to listen to him? Others had equal or better speaking talents and ideas, access to marketing resources, etc. Except for one!
  • Why did the Wright Brothers succeed in powered controlled flight? Samuel Langley failed, working with better funding, better education, more resources of all sorts. Except for one!

Other similar examples abound. Mahatma Gandhi, Mustang vs. Edsel, The Beatles, come to mind.


In Sinek’s talk he suggests that, in your marketing, you should answer:

  1. WHY do you do what you do?
  2. HOW do you do what you do?
  3. WHAT do you do?

In that order. Many people get that exactly backwards. They explain what they do. They may then explain how they do it. Some may even explain why they do it. 


Simon discusses the biological processes in the human brain. How they correlate with his recommended strategy. Why they don’t correlate with much of the marketing out there.


Next he talks about the law of diffusion of innovation. Why and when innovators, early adopters, majorities, and “laggards” buy things. 


Along the way, he entertains you!


I leave it to Simon Sinek to entertain you! While he entertains you he’ll explain why and how  all this works.   Enjoy!

How Will You, or Your Prospect, Choose a Coach?

Dennis Hooper  understands employees, relationships and how people work together. In large organizations, and in small ones. His experience includes 30 years in large company HR management and 5 years with his own small business. All that has prepared him for 10 years (so far) of leadership coaching. And he has several certifications to back that up.

Dennis knows what he’s talking about when it comes to selecting a coach. That’s what we’ll explore this week. For many business people, deciding to hire a coach in the first place is difficult. If you’re a coach, you know how much people agonize over the decision. Dennis’s article could often be a valuable resource for you to offer your prospects. 

If you’re not a coach you may be, or perhaps should be, considering hiring a coach. I recommend it! Here’s an article I wrote a  couple of years ago about that. Then if you so desire, you can check out Dennis’ article to consider how to select a coach.


In making this decision, people ask:

  • How will a coach help me get better results?
  • How much sensitive and personal information must I divulge to a coach?
  • What if I find I don’t trust the coach I hire?
  • How much will a coach cost?

When someone has found answers to those questions, how will he or she decide what coach to hire? Even if some questions remain less than fully answered, one might decide (rightly I believe) that a coach will help clear things up. Any coach will be happy to talk with you before you hire him or her.


In his excellent examination of the important considerations in selecting a coach, Dennis discusses five issues to explore:

  • References
  • Competence
  • Desire to serve
  • Commitment
  • Chemistry

For each he talks about why the factor is important and how to learn what you need to know about your candidates.


Enjoy Dennis’ article. I hope you find it valuable.

Like to Talk? Like for People to Listen to You?

Relationships are fundamental to life. In fact, they define your life.


Solid relationships depend on real conversations. Two (or more) people, preferably face to face. Or at least in a live exchange by telephone, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp, or whatever real-time tool you prefer. 


Text or email messages are  data exchanges,  not conversations. 


A conversation means real persons exchanging ideas in real time. One person speaks, the other responds within a few seconds.


Glassdoor recently named Celeste Headlee as having the #1 must-watch TED talk for every recruiter and hiring manager. Here’s that talk. It  offers ten excellent tips for engaging in meaningful and enjoyable (for everyone!) conversations. The video runs just over 11 minutes.


Some of Celeste’s suggestions debunk some common advice you’ve probably heard. She discusses ways to show you’re paying attention. She says: If you are paying attention, you don’t need to do anything else to show you’re paying attention!


Celeste says other hallmarks of good conversation include:

  • Honesty – If you don’t know for sure, skip it, or admit you’re not sure.
  • Brevity – Skip unimportant details. Nothing is more boring to your audience than dates, names, etc. that add nothing to your message.
  • Clarity – Think about what you’ll say, and how you’ll say it, so you make it crystal-clear.
  • Listening – Paying close attention to what others say – to learn, not to formulate a reply.
  • Prepare to be amazed!

You can learn more about Celeste here.


Enjoy Celeste’s lively presentation, and think about what you can do to improve your conversations. 


Better conversations will improve your relationships, and that will improve your life!

Performance Reviews – Everybody Hates Them!

As we approach the end of the year many companies instruct their managers to conduct performance reviews. So this seems an appropriate topic for this week.


Enjoy it, whether it’s a new idea or a reminder for you! I hope you find value in it.


Who likes performance reviews?


I’d venture to say performance review time is stressful for pretty much everyone, reviewer and reviewee alike. Since it’s been generally accepted that these reviews are key to performance measurement and improvement, we’ve done them. Most of the time we haven’t thought a lot about alternatives.


Here’s a lady with a different idea. Ditch performance reviews and conduct monthly “check-ins”. In these check-ins she and her managers ask 3 questions. I’ll let Jessica Rovello, co-founder of Arkadium , explain what those questions are in this 64-second video .


They’re pretty effective questions, and Jessica reports that performance improves as a result of asking them.


After all, performance measurement should improve performance – right? I’m pretty sure morale improves as well, and that’s always a good thing.


Enjoy Jessica’s quick look at Arkadium’s alternative to performance reviews.

What Made You Late? (Or Miss on Any Promise?)

Since we’re all super busy this time of year (this was written just before Christmas), I decided to make this message very short.

The article I’m linking to may be even shorter than my message introducing it!


Karyn Danielle Chylewski is one of my favorite sources for quality material to include here. This time she has a very succinct message for us:

Take responsibility, and tell yourself and the world you’re taking responsibility!

She explains how the words we use make a big difference.


Think this doesn’t make a difference? Try it! You, and everyone you communicate with, will feel better, and more powerful, as a result.

Enjoy, and heed, Karyn’s message.

What Will Replace Facebook?

Something we’ve sometimes discussed here is the value (or not) of “social” media.


Recently I listened to a fascinating interview on Alex Sanfelippo’s Creating A Brand blogsite. He was talking with Gina Bianchini, founder of  Mighty Networks. Gina believes that Facebook, Instagram, etc., connect people in a way that doesn’t stimulate them positively. Her take is that new users add no increased value to existing members. The network grows with diverse-interested and often negative elements.


At Gina’s  Mighty Networks,  a group of people with common interests can form an online community. This community will have a pinpoint focus. For example a group might be radio-controlled model aircraft enthusiasts. Such groups could also have a more serious purpose, such as investments, or strategies to retain employees.  Here’s the interview (about 30 minutes) where Gina fleshes out this idea. She also explains why these groups promote healthier chats than do social media.


In the pre-social-media world, people often got together, in person, in groups with like interests. There were gardening clubs, woodworking clubs, poetry clubs, etc. Often they were even more specialized than those examples. Some of them of course still exist. They’re the kinds of groups Gina promotes on Mighty Networks. 


By joining these groups on line, the members can communicate with others anywhere. It’s important though that the conversations remain focused on the group topic. Other conversations should be taken “off-line” – to a separate communication. They might even become the focus of a new group. A moderator should watch to see that things stay on track.


Gina believes that the best ideas come from people with similar interests stimulating their thinking in conversation and camaraderie. I agree.


The large diverse social media networks have often become platforms for spreading discontent and criticism. I recently had a disagreement with someone who was prone to making sarcastic comments in “reply all” emails or WhatsApp groups. This is the sort of thing that can often happen on social media sites. Gina points out that unpleasantness spreads much faster than positivity. It can become poisonous!


To me, it seems that Gina’s model provides a better way for positive people to communicate in like-minded groups. Some people will of course still prefer the broader platforms. They’re welcome to them!