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.

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.

How to Advance in Business?

You’ve likely heard the advice from a coach or a self-improvement gal or guy. 


Emulate the position you aspire to.

Dress for two levels above your current position!

Rub elbows with people at that level!

Strive to act and sound like you’re there!

All well and good – up to a point. Following that advice can get you in trouble, for a couple of reasons. 


For one, you’re likely to alienate the people you need to get along with now.


Then there’s the issue of authenticity. We’ve talked often about the importance of being your authentic self. The “emulate” advice could lead you to “put on airs” – to act like someone you’re not. No matter how good an actor you are, you can’t carry this on very long. Inauthentic behavior causes inner conflict for you, and others see right through it.

Here,  Jessica Stillman relates  advice from Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey. These too women have obviously done some things right! It usually pays to listen to such people. Both have suggested that being the person you are is vital to success. Anything else will lead to trouble. For you internally, and for your career. Oprah talked in more detail  here about the experience she alludes to.


Enjoy Jessica’s article. Be the most authentic version of yourself you can be!

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.

Do You Give Your Employees a Holiday Turkey?

We all know gratitude is an important tool in a leader’s toolbox. While it’s important to keep that in mind all the time, the coming holiday season is an ideal time to say “Thank you!”.


In this articleInc. magazine contributor Scott Mautz suggests 8 unique ways to show your gratitude to your employees.


Scott’s suggestions will make memorable occasions for your employees and their families. Including families is important. The work your employees do can be fully effective only if it’s compatible with their family life. In a sense, when you hire someone to do a job, you’re really hiring the whole family. Recognizing their importance in the employee’s life is very effective in inspiring good performance. 


Let the family see that their star (your employee) is doing important work, and that you appreciate that. Then the family will be much more inclined to support what the employee does for you. When you ask for extra effort, your guy or gal will be more effective if they have their family’s support.


Let your workers and their families see the impact of their performance on you…and on your family. Scott’s first suggestion is especially unique and effective in doing that. 


All of these suggestions help your people see that they’re making a real contribution…to something larger than themselves. Job satisfaction surveys remind us how much this means to one’s sense of reward for the work they do.


Of course these suggestions can apply to birthdays and other special occasions as well. They might be even more effective if they’re done for no apparent reason – just to say “I appreciate you!”.


Enjoy Scott’s unique suggestions for ways to reward your employees. 

How Does Your Team Leader (Is it You?) Show Up?

Here’s a scenario for you: 


You’re responsible for accomplishing a task or project. Or perhaps for the performance of a continuing function in your company.


You’ve gathered a group of people with the right abilities to accomplish the work.


What’s the most important factor in the performance of such a team?


Of course their abilities are critical. Since you’ve assembled a team appropriate to the job at hand, we’ll take those as a given.


The words you say and the things you do are important. What matters most though is how the team members feel as a result of what you say and do.


Here’s Karyn Danielle discussing your ideal approach and how it affects:

  • Team members’ attitudes.
  • Their readiness to perform, and give it their all.

Like many parts of leadership, this requires feel and delicacy. Karyn offers several suggestions for how to help them feel connected to something that matters. Something larger than each of them as an individual.


In the less-than-4-minute video in her article, she brings this picture into focus. It’s worth a few minutes of your attention.


Enjoy the article. I hope you find it valuable.