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What Goes Around Comes Around


Thanks to Lori Shapiro and Project Management Institute of Orange County for posting a recommendation for me on LinkedIn.

I copied it to post here as well:

Lori Shapiro – PMP, MS, ITIL, CSM

Lori hired you as a Business Consultant in 2009 {1}

Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, High Integrity

“I asked Steve to speak at the Project Management Institute Orange County’s Career Fair on how to best use Social Media for those people in transition. He had a 30 minute slot – not a lot of time – but he really did a great job in providing consise and very useful information to the attendees. I heard very positive comments about Steve’s presentation, and attendees wanted his presentation and follow up notes. Steve provided everything as soon as I asked him and now his presentation and notes are posted on our website. He provided a very valuable service to our organization, especially to our members in transition. THANK YOU, STEVE!” September 21, 2009

Are You a Time Teller or a Clock Builder?

builttolastSome business books just stick with you.

Jim Collins wrote Built to Last in 1994. He followed it up with Good to Great, which is even better.

If you are starting a business and have Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs, as Collins calls them), get these two books and plow through them.

So what does being a Time Teller mean?

It means that you are building and running your company around you and not creating something that can last.

You are the sun of your solar system, Helios, all powerful and all-knowing.

Only you can tell others what time it is, what needs to be done, who needs to do it.

All decisions and strategies must pass through you, because you are the font of all wisdom.


If you are in business to stay in business and create value, then it’s time to build a clock. A clock that everyone can rely on, so you can tell the time no matter who is around.

It will not be easy.

It requires, thinking, planning and executing.

And snapping out of a dream-like state of existence that it is ALL ABOUT YOU.

In this whole personal branding, everyone is self-employed, you-are-on-your-own-now, world of ours, we are getting sucked into the insane notion that we can do it ALL ON OUR OWN.

But I reach out!

I have “conversations”!

I ask for help!

I’m not a Time Teller.


You want to cut a deal with a big player, who could take your company to the next level, and you don’t want to bring the guy who created the relationship (and knows their business better than you), to the meeting?

Time Teller.

You say you have a potential $100 million business and you don’t want to create any policies or procedures or clearly defined roles and responsibilities for your ever-increasing payroll?

Time Teller.

You think your company can grow without hiring people smarter than you?

Time Teller.

You think you can do a handshake deal that puts your entire company at risk?

Time Teller.

People want to be inspired. And they want their work to provide some of that inspiration. And nothing gets people more pumped up than feeling like they are a part of something that is worthwhile and moving in unison. Time Tellers create the worst culture imaginable because no one ever truly knows what is going on. No one knows what time it is until the Time Teller tells them.

Don’t do it. Don’t be a Time Teller.

Get humble. Get organized. Get out of your head.

Get Swiss.

Build a clock.

One Big Lesson from an Egomaniacal Wall Street Workaholic

charging-bull-wall-streetThe best boss I ever had was an absolute madman.

We all called him Madman Jack.

I worked for him out of the World Financial Center in New York when I was an analyst in the investment banking unit of Merrill Lynch.

He worked endless hours, was always in over his head and had 10 things going on at once.

He was always disheveled, in his unorganized paper-strewn office and I usually found him changing into a new shirt at 8 in the morning because he had slept in the one he wore the day before.

Every other office like his, with a Statue of Liberty view, was inhabited by calm, cool, clinical types with nothing out of place and a sense of studious seriousness and decorum.

And they all hated Madman Jack.

For one big reason.

He made things happen.

The guy took action like nobody I had ever seen then or since.

Whereas every other banker would have one or two grunt analysts like me in their office at a time, he would have six.

If there was a new area of opportunity to carve out he would take it.

And I would protest.

The conversation usually went like this…

I would say “But, we don’t do…” or “I don’t have…” or “How do I..”

and he would reply with…

“Just get it done!”

“Make it happen!”

“Find out!”

It was both frightening and inspiring.

We would go to meetings with clients and do presentations that I knew were less than good but it didn’t matter.

Because we would get there first.

While our competitors would be making everything perfect and just so, we would just show up.

And Madman Jack would lead the meeting and say things that were flat out wrong WRONG! but it didn’t matter because he would learn and never make that same mistake again.

One day he came into my office and said, “I’m sending you to London to analyze financial institution merger and acquisition trends…”

“But I don’t know…”

“Find out!”

I did and he joined me later and Merrill Lynch established their first M&A unit overseas.

I have never forgotten the lesson, which I sometimes fail at miserably, that above all else, what is most important for business success, is to TO DO SOMETHING.


Even if it’s wrong.

Even if people laugh and make fun of you.

Like Madman Jack’s fellow bankers.

Oh boy did they.

But that all ended.

On the day they were all working for him.

That Giant Sucking Sound is Your Time on Social Media

nielsen-landscape-time-spent-increase-video-social-media-february-2009Most small business owners are interested in social media.

If they are active on a few sites, they want to know if what they are doing is working.  If they are not active at all, they want to know what all the fuss is about.

It struck me yesterday, at a talk I gave at SCORE Orange County (at the invite of Morgan Smith, owner of Boneheads Restaurant and Tom Patty, retired President of TBWA\Chiat\Day) that we should begin every discussion on social media with one huge warning.

Social media could kill your business.

There are two ways this can happen:

1.  You overpay an “expert” to run a social media campaign you can not afford, or

2.  You take the DIY approach and kiss your valuable selling and marketing time goodbye.

In this environment, every small business owner (especially those just starting out) needs to be devoting 50% or more of their time selling and marketing their business.

And if you think that you can just set up a bunch of accounts everywhere and take advantage of automation apps and scripts, you will do more harm than good.

The hands-down best approach for small business owners and social media is to be a tortoise.

A well-meaning, interested, caring, genuine, plodding tortoise.

Go one at a time and learn from your experience before moving on to the next network.

There are plenty of stories of small businesses who just use Twitter for example and have had tremendous success.

But for every one of those, there are many others who quickly get lost in the vortex of distraction that social media can create.

I speak from experience when I say you must avoid the easy thing and carve out a set amount of time for your social media efforts.

It is just way too easy to get sucked into one more conversation or interesting article.

Pick your blog or Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn and just kill it there before you move on to the next one.

That’s my advice.

And yours?

How a Little KIND Forced Its Way Into Starbucks

kindsnacks” I’ve learned you just gotta live what you love.”

A friend of mine tossed that little gem out yesterday.  It sounds like another trite rah rah small biz platitude but it carries a lot of weight.

Especially when you see a perfect example of it through Daniel Lubetsky and KIND Snacks.

The New York Times recently featured Lubetsky and KIND as an example of small business success.

Lubetsky is the founder of Peaceworks, the holding company and manufacturer of KIND Snacks.  Peaceworks is dedicated to “the pursuit of both profit and peace.”  From their corporate bio:

“We pursue profit through our sales of healthful food products that are produced by neighbors on opposing sides of political or armed conflicts, whose cooperative business ventures we facilitate.  We pursue peace through our Peaceworks Foundation and the OneVoice Movement.”

KIND Snacks is the product that Lubetsky envisioned in every Starbucks around the world five years ago.

And what kept him going and eventually got his foot in the door was his passion for peace and conflict resolution which he pursued through his foundation.

Of course since 2004 he had been speaking with Starbucks executives and sending them his snack bars and press releases.

That’s what everybody does at a bare minimum to break into giant distribution channels like a Starbucks or WalMart.

But it was in 2007 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Lubetsky got his break.

He was there to speak about his philanthropic work with Peaceworks when he ran into a Starbuck biz dev exec he had known earlier.

The exec offered to give him a tour of Starbucks headquarters and an introduction to the food and beverage chief.

The tour happened later that year but still another year went by with no commitment from Starbucks.

Lubetsky kept at it.

He saw an opportunity in 2008 when he spotted an article saying that Starbucks was rethinking their food strategy.

He forwarded his contacts a Yale Pilot Study that suggested eating two KIND bars a day could contribute to weight loss.

This time Starbucks responded with an order of 500,000 bars for its 7,000 stores in the US.

Five years from the start of KIND, and Dubetsky’s Big Hairy Audacious Goal was realized.

It sprung from passion, focus and determination.

And a love for the space he was operating in.

Business as a lifestyle.

Business as meaningful.

Business as something that comes from the heart.

Not a bad business to be in.

How My Three Year Old Changed My Business Model

toby1“What are you doing, Daddy?”

“Helping somebody to do something.”



And that was it.

I was cooked for the rest of the day.

My kid messed with my head.

By basically saying…

Why the Hell are you doing what you’re doing?

For my own sanity (and for the benefit of my clients) I am going to bring my son with me to analyze all of their businesses.

It’ll be great.

“And this is where we input all the orders.”


“And this is where we house the inventory.”


“And this is what we do after we get a complaint.”


And so on and son on.

Every small business owner could benefit from asking the “Why” question.

And I’m not just talking from a tactical standpoint, but a big picture, fired-up, in your face perspective.

Summer is a great time to reflect on what you were put on this good green earth to do.

It’s a daily battle, but you’ve got an advantage you might not be exploiting.

The ability to step back, call timeout and with childlike simplicity ask…


Why am I doing THIS?

Do people need what I am doing?

Can I do it better?

Can I do it in a more unique, thoughtful way?

What is it that people want?

How can I help them get it?

How can I serve a larger purpose?

Big questions.

It takes some innocence and thought to answer them

I’d love to make some big proclamation that I’ve got it all nailed down but that would be bullshit.

Let’s just say things have changed, for the better.

Thanks to the world’s greatest business coach.

My little guy who won’t stop asking why.