Entrepreneur? Or Just Another Business Person?

(Published in The Unity Community newsletter in January 2019)


Norm Brodsky
, who writes a regular column in Inc. magazine, has a very interesting story for us for this issue

He and his wife stopped by a store where Linda Pagan manufactures and sells ladies’ hats. 

Linda makes some very broad-brimmed hats that many people like for outdoor events. Since she includes boxes with all her hats, she needs larger than normal boxes for these hats. 

She took the “bull by the horns” and helped her box supplier develop the capacity  to produce these outsized boxes. The supplier hadn’t identified the market for such hat boxes. She did, and stepped up to make it happen, with benefit to herself and other marketers, the box supplier, and the customers.

This is the way business should be done – win-win-win! It’s how a market economy generates wealth. 

Through cooperative effort, everybody benefits. Linda, the box supplier and other milliners earn a profit by selling their wares for more than it costs to make them. The customers get the hats worth more to them than the money they pay for them.

So here’s the difference between an entrepreneur and another business person. Many people start a “business” which is really just a job for them. They don’t answer to a boss per se (except their customer), but they’re selling what others sell, with few if any unique features.

Those who identify and fill a gap, or space for a product or service that nobody is offering, are entrepreneurs. Others compete with existing suppliers without offering anything new. They must compete on price, delivery time, or other mundane features of their product or service. They have much more competition than the entrepreneur does.

Enjoy Norm’s story about entrepreneur Linda Pagan. This insight may be useful to better understand and explain the difference between entrepreneurs and other business people.

What Will Help You Most to Navigate Hard Times?

This month seems to be developing into a time of philosophical exploration. Last week we discussed Wayne Dyer’s wise life improvement suggestions. This week, I go  back a little further in history (about 700 years!) for for some Persian wisdom on life.

Yalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, better known simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, faqih, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

Nikos, who has commented on several of my articles, recently sent me 75 Rumi quotes. Most of them are worthy of thoughtful note. In the list, every 10th one is highlighted. There are many nuggets of wisdom in the entire list. For different people, different ones will have the biggest impact. I won’t try to select for you.

All of this advice, no matter the source, essentially comes down to positive mindset. Travel restrictions, wild stock market fluctuations, etc., can lead one to think negatively. We have no control over those things. One thing we can always control is our mindset. Keeping a positive mindset helps us through the toughest of times. In a positive mindset we are much more effective at addressing what we can control.

Napoleon Hill famously said, “Fear and faith can’t co-exist.” Have faith that you can produce the results you want, and set fear aside.

Be positive and grateful.

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.

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!

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!

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!