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#1 A Business Carol The Past

A Christmas Carol: The

In the original story “A Christmas Carol,” (first edition 1843) Charles Dick- Ghost of Christmas
ens writes about an old and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who undergoes a Past leads Scrooge on a
life-changing experience of redemption over the course of a Christmas Eve journey to some of his
night. past Christmases, where
events shaped his life
The plot goes like this ( “If the experience and character.
doesn’t change Scrooge’s ways, he will end up walking the Earth forever
being nothing but an invisible and lonely ghost, like his deceased friend A Business Carol: As
Jacob Marley.” Lately, I’ve been thinking about how “A Christmas Carol” a business owner, you
parallels much of what we do every day within our businesses. reflect on some of your
past business decisions
First of all, Charles Dickens himself was a struggling entrepreneurial au- that shaped the direction of your company.
thor fretting over how he was going to pay off his debt when he penned “A
Christmas Carol” - all 18,000 pages - in just six short weeks. But this is Dr. Govindarajan: “Box Two involves selectively forgetting the past.” Here
nothing new on genius spurts because many bright and creative folks pro- you thought we were to learn from history not to repeat mistakes from
duce some of their best ideas under duress. A great mind reacts naturally the past! Partially true. In Dr. Govindarajan’s opinion, “not everything
to dire circumstances: Do something spectacular! And in this case, “A that you do today will be relevant in 2025.” So therein lies the rationale of
Christmas Carol” was not only cranked out in a limited amount of time but selectively forgetting the past so that you can remain relevant and prepare
also went on to become one of the most popular and enduring Christmas assertively for the future.
tales of all time.
The Present
What’s so remarkable is how this story has become a metaphor for oper-
ating a business during our current tumultuous economic times - what I A Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge through
refer to as “A Business Carol.” A related concept that recently caught my the streets of London on the current Christmas morning. They observe the
Cratchit family’s happy celebration. When the Spirit predicts an early death
attention comes from Dr. Vijay Govindarajan, a professor of international
for son Tiny Tim if things remain the same, Scrooge wants to change the
business at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. An expert
on innovation and strategy, he spoke with The Wall Street Journal (http:// about his theory of how business strategy involves A Business Carol: You observe the celebrations of the neighboring business
three boxes (hence, the image). and their new product that was launched on a shoestring. When you see
signs of an early death for the product if things remain unchanged, you
The Wall Street Journal article describes Dr. Govindarajan’s theory: “Box wish to change the future.
One involves managing the present - for example, improving the efficiency
of today’s businesses. Box Two involves selectively forgetting the past Dr. Govindarajan: “Box One involves managing the present - for example,
[interesting twist]. And Box Three … is about creating the future.” improving the efficiency of today’s businesses,” the WSJ article explains.
Dr. Govindarajan states that companies tend to focus on this and cost con-
I could not help but think of good old Scrooge. But let’s take a further trol. “That’s inevitable because, for many companies, sales revenue has
look at how three different perspectives - “A Christmas Carol,” my make- dropped by 50%, 60% or 70%. When your sales drop by 70% and you’ve
believe “A Business Carol” and Dr. Govindarajan’s real-life interview with got to maintain margins, you’ve got to cut costs,” he says.
the WSJ - all tie together to help us better understand how to prepare for
the economic recovery.
The Future
A Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come frightens Scrooge
and haunts him with a vision of a future Christmas with the Cratchit family
but without Tiny Tim.

A Business Carol: You are haunted by a vision of a future in which the
neighboring business’s product has failed.

Dr. Govindarajan: Box Three is about creating the future, according to the
WSJ article. Can you really plan for the future? “You cannot plan for the
year 2025, but you can prepare for it,” says Dr. Govindarajan. “Preparing
for the future simply involves asking what the broad trends are.”

The End
A Christmas Carol: Scrooge changes his life, becoming more generous
with his time and money.

A Business Carol: You change your life and revert to the generous, kind-
hearted soul you were before the death of one of your ideas. You anony-
mously send the neighboring business the biggest business tip you can
think of, and you spend time with employees, independent contractors and
the neighboring business.

Dr. Govindarajan: Often, “companies spend too much of their time man-
aging Box One - the present - and think that’s strategy. Instead, he
argues, companies need to spend more time and energy on thinking about
Box Two [selectively forgetting the past] and Box Three [creating the fu-
ture],” the WSJ reports.

There you have it. Three different perspectives, all with a common theme:
There is still time to make a difference in our world, to learn from your
past yet choose to forget certain parts of it to remain relevant and to make
improvements in your life and your business in preparation for a more
vibrant future.

And remember, just like Scrooge, if you don’t change your business ways,
you might end up being nothing but an invisible and lonely business ghost.

#2 Business Resilience Because living a full life, which may or may not include running a small
business, more than likely includes unhappy events. You can either
How to Weather Economic Storms choose to be a victim or become resilient. Choosing resiliency sets you up
for some additional challenges, but it also offers a chance to become an
even healthier human being or a stronger organization in the process.
Tom just learned that his business loan with a big bank won’t be renewed,
which means the new business he recently picked up will not be properly Long before Elizabeth Edwards wrote the book on resiliency, influential
financed. thinker and management guru Gary Hamel (
was already onto it. With Liisa Valikangas, he co-authored, “Quest for
Mary discovered her best, longstanding employee stole proprietary infor- Resilience” in 2003 for the Harvard Business Review (electronic down-
mation from her company and channeled it to a key competitor. load available here for U.S. $6.50: He states,
“Continued success no longer hinges on momentum. Rather, it rides on
Harry recently received a recap from his project team leader and the pro- resilience — on the ability to dynamically reinvent business models and
jections are 200 percent over budget. strategies as circumstances change.”

What do all these people need? Business resilience: an ability to recover So let’s take it from there and I’ll share a couple of actions that have
from or adjust easily to misfortune or change (Merriam-Webster online worked for me when it comes to business resilience.
dictionary: Are you resilient? Does it matter?
Let’s find out here. First, when bad news comes your way, be brutally honest with what’s hap-
pening and establish an action plan. There’s nothing worse than pretend-
Face life’s ing a problem does not exist! So, remind yourself to ask, “What’s really
going on?” For example, if you lost a big client, admit it. Determine why
personal and busi- and what to do about it from here on in. Think: Create a new strategy on
ness adversities how NOT to lose clients! If you find out someone in your firm is stealing
head-on. trade secrets for the benefit of others, take action. Think: Create a better
strategy on how to protect your intellectual property, and decide what you
On a personal level, nobody will do if the process is breached. Usually business bumps can be caused
knows resiliency better than by the inability to anticipate what’s ahead. If it’s not a bump but a drop-
Elizabeth Edwards. She wrote off, say a pothole, it’s a business process problem or someone is totally
a book about it — “Resilience: “not on it.”
Reflections on the Burdens and
Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities” Second, if you can bounce back fast, efficiently and effectively in response
( to whatever bad news comes your way, you can use the new reality as a
She appeared to live a life of competitive advantage going forward. Don’t waste time longing for what
luxury when, over the course of “may have been.” Take action to build your business more strategically
time, she lost her 16-year-old son in a freak car accident, learned about around the new reality. After all, you get a chance to strengthen a weak-
her husband’s infidelity and discovered her own life was on the line when ness, and the faster you move on it, the faster you save dollars spent in
she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After rounds of treatment, the can- the wrong direction. In order to maintain continuous business momentum,
cer went away only to return in 2007. respond swiftly to risks or a crisis, as well as opportunities.

Is Elizabeth Edwards resilient? You bet. Why? Because she just keeps Third and last, draw strength from the episode. Lately, business assump-
moving forward. Why is it important that Elizabeth Edwards faces adversi- tions or forecasts are being blown away every nanosecond due to the ex-
ty head-on? And why is it crucial that you, too, face personal and business ceptionally volatile global business climate, but your resiliency allows you
adversities head-on? to move through it. Though it may be haunting, daunting or even devas-
tating, deal with it in a way that makes you feel good about your business

and your life. And don’t let other people’s disappointments disparage your
worth or your businesses’ value. After all, you want to be known for your
stellar leadership qualities every day, not just during a time of crisis.

Resiliency should live on not just during a one-time crisis or a short ride of
tumultuous times, but forever. When is the last time you were resilient?
Did it work? Has your business become stronger as a result? Don’t wait
for the obvious. Do something different, now.

#3 Five People Who Live LOUD 2. Danica Patrick. “I live for the
moment and I own it.” Visit Danica’s
website and the first thing you see is
Do you? a sexy Danica holding her racecar
helmet. At the bottom it says,
“Choose your experience.” Racy
Wear that pink tie. Color your hair purple. Pursue the passion you love. enough? You bet. Living loud? You
Ask for the raise you deserve. Start a business. double bet. Click on normal screen
and you are in for quite a ride:
This is no time to be shy, because shy people blend in. You want to live Danica racing (first woman to win the
loud - take crazy, calculated risks and keep us guessing at what’s next! Indy Japan 300; http://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Danica_Patrick), Danica
When the title of this entry popped into my head, I searched for “Live posing for a “Got Milk?” ad, Danica
Loud” on Google and Bing to see who may have been on to this before modeling swimsuits for Sports Illus-
me. Surprise, surprise. There are only two key listings and both have to trated (on the Web) and Danica
do with music: Live & Loud on Wikipedia and “Live and Loud,” a live album Twittering away @DanicaPatrick (I’ll let you find out!).
recorded by singer Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath (one of my favorite
groups, I might add) that was released on June 28, 1993. The living loud comes at you on all fronts, but particularly in the lyrics of
the song that plays on her site: “I live for the moment … (http://www.
To me, living loud is about you living your passion boldly without caring“
what others think while leaving an indelible mark on the world. It’s about
your ability to take measured risks for the sake of fulfilling your goals.
3. Tony Adams. “It’s a six-foot tall interactive machine.” That’s what
18-year old Tony Adams ( is into these days.
Let’s examine five people who represent what living loud means:
The machine holds 4,000 gumballs and is known as the Wowie Zowie. It’s
a show that lives loud, but Tony is the guy with guts behind it - entertain-
1. Former President George H. W. Bush. “Don’t sit around drool- ment at its best. The gumball spirals, zigzags, coasts on a Ferris wheel,
ing in a corner,” says George H. W. Bush, who decided to skydive again then drops down the chute. There are graphics and sounds. How can one
( on his 85th birthday (He jumped on his 75th resist?
and 80th birthdays as well). Here’s what living loud means to him:
4. Nobuyuki Tsujii. “I would like people to listen to my performance
“It feels good. There’s an exhilaration, especially when you start out of the just as a pianist.” Nobuyuki is a blind 20-year-old Japanese pianist who
plane. You feel exhilarated. You get charged up, excited. That’s not easy shares the first prize from the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Com-
to do at 85. . . and it sends a message all around the globe, just because petition ( in Fort Worth, Texas. He didn’t have to
you are an old guy, you don’t have to sit around drooling in a corner.” try for the prize, but he did, so he can claim his live loud moment. About
10,000 copies of his CD “Debut” had been sold since it went on sale a year
And as former President Bush says in his video, “Do something. Get out and a half ago, but the prestigious prize more than doubled that number in
and enjoy life.” That pretty much sums up living loud. just one day. Last I checked, 50,000 copies of Nobuyuki’s CDs have been

5. Ashton Kutcher. “I make stuff, actually I make up stuff, stories

mostly, collaborations of thoughts, dreams, and actions. That’s me.”
That’s what you will find on Ashton’s Twitter page (
Aplusk). But yes, he’s also a famous actor and married to actress Demi
Moore so he’s been living loud for quite some time. But the Twitter deal
catapulted him over the top when he said he could get one million Twitter
followers faster than CNN, and he did (

Why wait for opportunities? Create them. Start loving yourself. Be who
you are. Live loud. Tell us how you do it.

#4 How A Business Owner Can Sleep 4. Obsess over listening to customers, employees, vendors, colleagues
and friends, and actually take action on what is said. The presidents even
Like a Baby During Tough Times report back to those who shared their thoughts and ideas on exactly what
they did differently because of the information. Of all the tools, this one
Be scared. You can’t help that. has helped them the most to sleep peacefully at night. It’s very empow-
But don’t be afraid. ~ William ering to everyone. It shows they really care. It humanizes them. And
Faulkner that’s a good thing during a downturn.

One of the classic ways to find 5. Emphasize a back-to-basics approach on everything, from how they
out what is really going on with buy office products to choosing cleaning services (do-it-yourself mentality)
a business owner or top-level to who gets wooed over lunch or dinner for new business initiatives. The
executive these days is to ask, key question to ask before spending money is: Do we really, truly need
“What’s keeping you up at this?
night?” Being a small business
owner and a formally trained 6. Enhance everything they do, from response time to continuous im-
facilitator, I decided to take a provement (quality) to total flexibility in how they manage projects. If
different approach and asked they did something in fourteen days, they do it now in four days, with half
twenty presidents of small busi- the number of people. If a client says, “We’re not sure if this will be a
nesses in marketing, interior marketing, advertising or PR push,” they say, “We can be flexible until you
design, insurance and a variety decide because we have the expertise to handle all or any one of those
of other industries what’s allow- areas.”
ing them to get a good night’s
rest. Here are the highlights of 7. Eliminate unnecessary expenses, from telephone bills (e.g., call wait-
what they shared. ing, call forwarding) to credit card balances to daily doughnut runs. They
are squeezing out every last little penny to keep their organizations as lean
1. Put in a good day’s work. Jumping out of bed, getting to work early, as possible. An employee at one of their companies said, “We’ve put the
being productive an extra hour or two at the end of a normal day if needed business on a treadmill to trim waste.” No fat, no worries.
and staying focused and committed to growing the business — these were,
of all the pointers, the ones most commonly shared. No one wanted to be 8. Learn to not just live with but love uncertainty, the unpredictability of
seen as a slacker, indecisive, depressed or out of touch with what’s going what’s yet to come. There’s a certain strength (oftentimes you don’t even
on in the world. The word “leader” came up in nearly every conversation know you have it until in a crisis mode) that comes over you when you
or email, as did the importance of being looked at as one. acknowledge that this might not pass and could be forever. The business
leaders said they look at it this way: It’s not your last dance; it’s your first,
2. Connect with upbeat, enthusiastic, high-energy people who share so get in step.
similar business concerns and offer up a whole host of action-oriented
solutions to extraordinary day-to-day problems. One of the things I heard 9. Reconfigure how to become a more nimble, value-added, innovative
time and time again is that it costs nothing to smile, and oftentimes we product, service or market creator. You can’t get ahead in an environment
forget to do just that (not in a fake way) on a daily basis. When we don’t like this unless you disrupt industries, trends or markets. Their intent is to
smile, it can bring a whole operation down into the doldrums — even when get out there and fire away with untried and untested ideas. If they don’t
it needn’t be. work, so what? They said they’d fail fast and move on. The goal is to
generate revenue with a profit wherever and whenever possible.
3. Communicate with the executive team and employees as often as
possible to convey what’s going on and the steps that are being taken to 10. Deal with it. Don’t think of surviving. Think of thriving. Action, not
keep the company strong. Actively seek input from every paid employee words, says it all. Imagine yourself five years from now and where you
on how to improve the company’s performance while maintaining profit will be. If you can envision it, you can do it.
margins. These business leaders are involving everyone in everything,
something they said they had not done up until now because they didn’t As Faulkner says, you can be scared, you can’t help that, but don’t be so
think the employees needed to know. Well, now they do. Their lifestyle or afraid that you cannot take appropriate action to move your organization
job is on the line. forward. Sleep well, dear reader.

#5 For Advice That’s Never Stale, Pick • The capacity to exercise a relatively high degree of imagination, ingenu-
ity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not
Up a Classic Business Book narrowly, distributed in the population.

• Under the conditions of modern industrial life, the intellectual potentiali-

The key to a leader’s impact is sincerity. Before he can inspire with emo- ties of the average human being are only partially utilized.
tion he must be swayed by it himself. Before he can move their tears his
own must flow. To convince them he must himself believe. ~ Winston Advice: During tough times, we must discover how to realize the potential
Churchill represented by our own people. Learn to manage the most valuable side
of your enterprise — the human side.
During a time of such unprecedented economic turmoil and change, lately
I find myself visiting my trusty (and dusty, I might add) in-home library of 2. In Search of Excellence ( ) by Thomas
business books, looking for answers and timeless wisdom from influential Peters and Robert Waterman, Jr. (1985). In this classic book that went on
authors who just might be capable of leading us fearlessly into the future. to become an all-time best seller, the authors unveil the secret to success-
ful business management. The roadblock to success didn’t have to do with
Out of hundreds of books to choose from, here are five that deserve a ignorance. It had to do with how American corporations tend to be too
spot in any collection of business classics. I’ve summarized the insightful shortsighted to permit experimentation and innovation — a similar issue
advice I took away from the authors, all business visionaries who helped we all face with our current economic market condition.
transform the world with their genius. You will find that most of the advice
is more timely, practical and relevant than you could possibly imagine con- Skimming the table of contents of the book provides a healthy dose of so-
sidering today’s economic climate. lutions to this question: What should we do next to lead our company out
of this mess? Part III is titled “Back to Basics.” The subsections include:
1. The Human Side of Enterprise ( ) by • A bias for action
Douglas McGregor (1960). Through his Theory Y view of management, • Close to the customer
McGregor calls upon us to reassess our assumptions about human behav- • Autonomy and entrepreneurship
ior in the workplace. Some of his major points in Chapter 4: • Productivity through people
• Hands-on, value-driven
• Stick to the knitting
• The expenditure of physical and • Simple form, lean staff
mental effort in work is as natural as • Simultaneous loose-tight properties
play or rest.
Here I see – don’t you? — the eight basic practices the authors find to be
• External control and the threat of characteristic of successfully managed companies.
punishment are not the means for
bringing about effort toward organi- Advice: Get back to basics. Treat people decently, ask them to shine, and
zational objectives. Man (or woman, make quality products that you can sell for a profit. Even for today’s tough
to make it more current) will exercise times, that’s a door opener to a future filled with promise.
self-direction and self-control in the
service of objectives to which he/she 3. Beyond Entrepreneurship: Turning Your Business Into An
is committed.
Enduring Great Company ( ) by James Collins
and William Lazier (1992). Since the publication of this inspiring, little-
• Commitment to objectives is a func-
tion of the rewards associated with known book, Collins went on to write Built to Last and Good to Great,
their achievement. but Beyond Entrepreneurship is one of my all-time favorites by Collins.
It’s about growing a business that has staying power and that can bounce
• The average human being learns, back from difficult periods (like now) stronger than ever.
under proper conditions, not only to
accept but to seek responsibility. Scan this book’s table of contents and you will find leadership style, vision,
strategy, innovation and tactical excellence all essential elements of attain-

ing corporate greatness. Straight from the book: outstanding leader who enables a business to flourish.

Leadership style: It’s impossible to build a great company without an ef- 5. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting
fective leadership style. It all starts with you. the Right Things Done ( ) by Peter Drucker
(1966). He identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that
Catalyzing a vision: Every great company has at its foundation a compel- must be learned. They are:
ling vision.
• Managing time
Demystify the topic of strategy: Once a vision is clear, you need to make • Choosing what to contribute to the organization
good decisions and have a road map for making the vision happen. • Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect
• Setting the right priorities
Innovation: How do you stimulate creativity and keep your company in- • Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making
novative as it evolves?
If you look at what’s going on in the world, the bottom line is this: It boils
Tactical excellence: How to translate vision and strategy into tactics and, down to executive effectiveness.
most important, how to create an environment that produces consistent
tactical excellence. Advice: If you read one book this year about how to improve your own
effectiveness as a business owner or executive during tumultuous times,
Advice: You can build an extraordinary organization capable of long-term this is it. Executive effectiveness can be learned, and there is a difference
health and success provided you lay a foundation for greatness now and between being busy and being effective — one of many gems covered in
are faithful to your values. It’s based on YOU. Trust people. Be decisive. this masterful book.
Set priorities. Walk the halls. Give positive reinforcement. Communicate
the vision of your company. Inspire people. And despite, or in spite of, What’s next? Gather your wits, practice everything outlined above, pay at-
our harsh economic times, continue to move forward with anything new, tention to your people, collectively come up with solutions, discover there’s
bold and risky. a world out there for doing business, declare “we are doing the change we
want to see” and keep going. Believe that success, even now, is possible,
4. On Becoming a Leader ( ) by Warren and by your actions and your attitude, convince others that it’s true.
Bennis (1989). According to Peter Drucker, “This is Warren Bennis’s most
important work,” and many would not argue with that. The lessons in this
book are just what Dr. Economic of the 21st Century would order up for us
in a pinch.

Examine the table of contents and you will find a recurring theme of un-
derstanding the basics: knowing yourself, knowing the world, operating
on instinct, deploying yourself, strike hard, try everything, move through
chaos, get people on your side and forge the future. Sound all too famil-
iar? It should. These are all the traits and characteristics you need now to
lead during a time of great uncertainty.

For today’s leaders, according to the book, three things make a difference.

1. Staying with the status quo is unacceptable.

2. The key to competitive advantage will be the capacity of leadership
to create the social architecture capable of generating intellectual
3. Followers need from their leaders three basic qualities: direction,
trust and hope.

Advice: Manifest the qualities above, says Bennis, and you will become an

times or bad — growth is always possible, provided you take some precise
actions. But before we move on, get over wishful thinking and the dumb
tactic routine! Think company strategy on steroids. Are you ready? Be-
cause double-digit growth is your decision! Let’s examine the five actions,
or disciplines, that Treacy talks about in his book.

1. Hold on to your hats — I mean customers! If you can’t do

that, you are in denial! “One of the easiest ways to improve
growth is to slow the loss of your existing customers,” says Treacy.
Losing customers left and right? Then figure out why and change

2. Get traction with your market share. Poaching your com-

petitor’s customers is no easy feat. “This is the toughest, nastiest
way to grow because it requires tearing customers away from a
competitor,” proclaims Treacy. All companies must establish a way
to either grab market share organically or acquire it with a well
thought-out initiative. Go do it.

3. Leverage market position. Treacy refers to it as exploiting

market position rather than leveraging it, but with the advent of
social media and networking platforms, it’s more about leverag-
ing what you have right in front of you to get the biggest bang for
your buck. Treacy declares, “Show up where growth is going to
#6 5 Actions For Double-Digit Business happen to achieve the easiest growth.” Still not on Twitter? Ac-
cording to Treacy’s theory, you’re blowing it.
Growth 4. Move into new markets. Can you build or acquire additional
This nasty economy is no excuse to settle for status quo or to not push capabilities on an as-needed basis? These new markets can be
hard for double-digit (10 percent or more) business growth. This article adjacent, emerging or overseas, but only “if you have practical
will give you five action items to get you out of your “hold steady” mode and immediate advantages there,” adds Treacy. Have you thought
and into high, predictable growth gear with your business. about going global? What’s stopping you? Somebody in another
country is probably yearning for your product or service because
In Michael Treacy’s “Double-Digit Growth: How Great Companies Achieve they need it.
It – No Matter What (,” he diagnoses a huge
problem with this summation: “The truth is that corporate America has 5. Commission new lines of business. When opportunity strikes
a growth problem — a broad, profound, systemic problem that worsens and it’s unrelated to your core business, “you need the skills of
quarter by quarter because of constant denial.” an investor more than those of a manager,” Treacy emphasizes.
Your top marketing manager isn’t going to know whether the
When is the last time you asked, “Am I in denial about what’s going on acquisition of ABC Company that’s up for sale is a good fit for your
with my company?” Have you ever wondered what causes a no-growth company, but a competent CFO or independent investment banker
disease to spread over a perfectly healthy company in the first place? I will.
have. So has Treacy. “Actually, the degeneration of a major company
is more often a case of self-destruction than of being lapped by a newer Regardless of the economic environment, growth is possible. You may
business model. Most decaying enterprises are brought down by their own be practicing only a few of the above disciplines to keep your business
managers, yoked to wishful thinking and dumb tactics that fail to deliver strong and on the path toward double-digit growth. But by carrying
growth,” says Treacy. Pathetic but true. out all five, you are guaranteed to pull ahead of the pack.

So whether you run a small business or a Fortune 500 company — in good

#7 Turning Limes to Limeade: Entre- perform recitations. From age 6 to 13, she lived in Milwaukee with her
mother. After suffering abuse and molestation, she ran away and was sent
to a juvenile detention home at the age of 13, only to be denied admis-
preneurship Can Surface in Many Ways sion because all the beds were filled. As a last desperate measure, she was
sent to Nashville to live under her father’s strict discipline.
Lots of entrepreneurs get off to a rocky or humbling beginning yet go on to
become wildly successful. Here’s a glimpse at five who, despite their early At 17, Winfrey’s broadcasting career began. She was hired by WVOL radio
challenges, managed to make their own way in life. We can learn from in Nashville, and two short years later signed on with WTVF-TV in Nashville
their endeavors and find opportunities in the unlikeliest places. as a reporter and anchor.

She headed for Chicago in January 1984 to host WLS-TV’s “AM Chicago,” a
1. Start a juice stand. As a near hopeless local talk show. In less than a year, she turned “AM Chicago”
young boy growing up in Hono- into the most popular show in town. The format was soon expanded to one
lulu, Hawaii, Steve Case (http:// hour, and in 1985 it was renamed “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”; demon- When Forbes magazine published its list of America’s billionaires for 2003,
strated his undying entrepreneurial it revealed that Winfrey was the first African-American woman to become
spirit by starting a juice stand with a billionaire.
his brother using limes grown in their
backyard. He and his brother Daniel
went on to share a paper route, sell
3. Develop an independent streak. At nine months, Larry Ellison
seeds and magazine subscriptions
contracted pneumonia, and his unmarried 19-year-old mother living in
and start a company they called Case
New York gave him up to her aunt and uncle in Chicago. Until he was 12
years old he did not know he was adopted. As a boy, Ellison showed an in-
dependent streak and often clashed with his adoptive father. From an early
Case eventually worked for Procter &
age, he showed a strong aptitude for math and science.
Gamble and while traveling, tinkered
with the personal computer, which
During the final exams in his second year in college, Ellison’s adoptive
back then was considered a novelty
mother died, and he dropped out of school. He enrolled at the University
device. He became intrigued with the
of Chicago the following fall, but dropped out again after the first semes-
possibilities of the online world.
ter. His adoptive father was now convinced that Ellison would never make
anything of himself, but the seemingly aimless young man had already
His brother Daniel, who had become
learned the elements of computer programming in Chicago. He took this
an investment banker, introduced him
skill with him to Berkeley, California, arriving with just enough money for
to the directors of Control Video, a struggling computer game company.
fast food and a few tanks of gas.
They offered Case a job as a marketing assistant on the spot, and he took
it so he could pursue his vision of an interactive world of computer-based
For the next eight years, Ellison bounced from job to job, working as a
communication and entertainment.
technician for Fireman’s Fund and Wells Fargo bank. As a programmer at
Ampex, he helped build the first IBM-compatible mainframe system.
In 1989, Case created his own branded online service named America On-
line. Quantum Computer Services, a company Case had founded and was
In 1977, Ellison and two of his Ampex colleagues founded their own com-
running, changed its name to America Online, Inc. in 1991.
pany, Software Development Labs. They went on to win a two-year con-
tract to build a relational database management system (RDBMS) for the
Case now devotes much of his time and energy to philanthropic activities.
CIA. The project’s code name: Oracle.

2. Read aloud and perform recitations. Born in Kosciusko, Mis- They finished the project a year ahead of schedule and used the extra time
sissippi, Oprah Winfrey (; to develop their system for commercial applications. They named their and was reared by commercial RDBMS Oracle as well. In 1980, Ellison’s company had only
her grandmother on a farm where, at the age of 3, she started building eight employees, and revenues were less than $1 million, but the follow-
the foundation for her broadcasting career by learning to read aloud and ing year, IBM itself adopted Oracle for its mainframe systems, and Oracle’s
sales doubled every year for the next seven years. original animated cartoons, and later perfected a new method for combin-
ing live-action and animation.
The million-dollar company grew into a billion-dollar company. Ellison
renamed the company Oracle Corporation, for its best-selling product. In 1923, Disney left Kansas City for Hollywood with nothing but a few
Oracle went public in 1986, raising $31.5 million with its initial public offer- drawing materials, less than $50 in his pocket and a completed animated
ing. and live-action film. His brother, Roy Disney, was already in California, with
an immense amount of support and $250. Combining their resources,
4. Backpack through India. Steve Jobs ( they borrowed an additional $500, and constructed a camera stand in their
wiki/Steve_Jobs; was born in San Francisco to uncle’s garage. Soon, they received an order from New York for the first
Joanne Carole Schieble and Abdulfattah John Jandali and adopted by Paul “Alice Comedy” feature. The brothers began their production operation in
and Clara Jobs. He spent his childhood in the South Bay area, a region the back of a Hollywood real estate office two blocks away.
that would later become known as Silicon Valley. During high school, Jobs
held a summer job at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto before Mickey Mouse was created in 1928 with his first sound screen debut in
attending college. His original association with Steven Wozniak began as a “Steamboat Willie,” the world’s first fully-synchronized sound cartoon. In
result of attending lectures and working at HP. 1940 construction was completed on the Burbank Studio, and in 1955 the
Disneyland Park opened.
Although he attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Jobs never gradu-
ated, having spent only about six months at college. He returned to Cali- What lessons can you learn from these global entrepreneurial icons who
fornia in 1974 and began attending meetings of the Homebrew Computer changed the face of American culture? In going after a dream, exercise
Club with his friend Wozniak. At the same time he took a job at Atari to unbridled enthusiasm until you achieve it. So do something unusual to
save money for a spiritual retreat to India. While working there he discov- manifest your own latent entrepreneurial capabilities: start a juice stand,
ered that a popular whistle recreated the tones needed to make long dis- backpack to India or sell a sketch to a neighbor. You never know where it
tance phone calls with AT&T. Jobs convinced Wozniak to go into business will lead.
with him to make blue boxes and sell them to people desiring to make free
long distance phone calls.

Jobs ended up backpacking through India but returned to work with Atari.
He continued to work with Wozniak on other projects and finally convinced
him to market a computer Wozniak had built for himself. On April 1, 1976,
Apple Inc. was born.

Jobs has grown Apple from a company bordering on bankruptcy in the

1990s to a very successful company today. He has helped establish the
new electronic divisions and personally helped create the iPod, iPhone, and
other personal devices.

5. Sell sketches to neighbors. Walt Disney (

wiki/Walt_Disney; was raised on a farm near
Marceline, Missouri, and became interested in drawing at an early age,
selling his first sketches to neighbors when he was only 7 years old.

In 1918, Disney attempted to enlist for military service. Rejected because

he was only 16 years old, Disney joined the Red Cross and was sent over-
seas, where he spent a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red
Cross officials. His ambulance was covered, not with stock camouflage, but
with drawings and cartoons.

After the war, Disney returned to Kansas City, where he began his career
as an advertising cartoonist. In 1920, he created and marketed his first

stand or how you can be of further service. Call those you are com-
fortable calling. Email those who prefer that method of communication.
And socialize online with the rest (Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, et al.).
Offer something new or different that they didn’t know they wanted and
that can’t be refused. After all, you want to grab more sales. Take more
market share. Grow.

3. Increase your marketing efforts. We keep saying this over and

over again here at OPEN, but let me repeat in case you don’t get it:
launch a blog, get on Facebook, YouTube, My Space, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Most of these platforms are free to set up. The goal is to make it very
easy for people to find you on the Internet, and this is the most economi-
cal and easiest way to do it. Hiding out in your office makes it very dif-
ficult for people to find you!

4. Join a peer group. Generally in a peer group, the people are equal
in power but bring different perspective and expertise to the table. For
example, my solace is the Women Presidents’ Organization (www.wom-, a peer advisory group that comprises women
presidents who have guided their businesses to generate at least $2
million in annual sales (or $1 million for a service-based business). We
#8 11 Tips to Help You Thrive After help each other grow our businesses. The investment more than pays for
itself by the war chest of resources, information and knowledge shared
Losing Your Biggest Client each month. (Disclosure: I serve as the facilitator Chair for the Chicago
market). But there are other peer groups that may serve you better. Do
Theresa just lost her biggest client, one who generates 80 percent of a Google or Bing search on “peer-to-peer” or “peer groups” to see what
her company’s total revenue. She’s been in the branding business for comes up in your local area. And don’t forget about SBA’s SCORE (www.
six years. In response, she can hide in her office and wait for the phone, which offers free online and face-to-face business counseling,
to ring or she can take swift action. Some of the biggest challenges for mentoring, and training. It is a great resource for helping you start and
entrepreneurs during difficult times are maintaining an upbeat attitude grow a business.
and being action-oriented even when the chips are down. That feeling of a
business going in reverse is not fun. What should Theresa do? What would 5. Set up an Advisory Board (AB). It costs little or nothing to get
started (revisit Anita Campbell’s excellent article here:
you do if you were in her shoes? Certainly not despair because plants ABs work brilliantly when the board estab-
even grow in sidewalk cracks. Here are 11 tips that ought to help Theresa,
lishes a specific purpose and members are asked to contribute ideas or
or you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. industry information on an objective and consistent basis. It is also best
that members meet each other regularly to share best practices, swap in-
1. Call the client. It can’t hurt to check in one more time to make sure dustry standards, network and put forward recommendations. A company
there isn’t something you missed, such as asking the right questions, of- that is working in global website hosting, for example, may develop an AB
fering extra value on proposals already in the pipeline, renegotiating exist- made up of highly specialized programmers and designers. Start with who
ing proposals to increase their value or offering to serve as a consultant you know (big names help) and trust and then focus on what you want to
one-on-one and on an as-needed-basis. You want to leave the door wide know. Encourage diverse perspectives and skills that complement your
open for when they are ready to come back or refer or recommend you to own.
someone else. And don’t forget to ask for a testimonial for the work you
have done well over the years (or recommendation on LinkedIn) if you 6. Buy a brightly colored punching bag. When the going gets tough
haven’t already! Post it on your website or blog. you are going to need it to let off steam (hand-to-hand combat works
wonders for releasing anxiety) so I wholeheartedly suggest you invest in
2. Contact existing and prospective clients to see where things
a punching bag and protective gloves (so you don’t hurt yourself!) to take
a few swings when all else fails. Gives you time to think and get hardy at
the same time. If you can’t find a smart, colorful bag, outsource it and
start a business!

7. Host a conference call with your key customers, prospects or

raging fans. Start with (maximum size is 150 call-
ers). Give your base one hour a week of your valuable time on the house!
Start small with 25 people, see how it goes and grow it from there. Sure
beats a podcast where you do all the talking (educating) and participants
just listen. A conference call engages your constituency base, keeps you
alert, allows YOU to listen and address questions as they arise and helps
you stay at the pulse of what matters. Always end the call with, “Thank
you for joining us and how can I help you going forward?”

8. Seek out happy times with people who enable you to be your
happiest. Maybe it’s your yoga instructor, massage therapist, best friend,
partner, spouse, parent, pet, executive coach, psychologist, sister, brother,
local bartender — whoever it is that makes you bust out laughing more
often than not — reach out to them constantly! Feeling good is a power-
ful motivator to doing good. Laughter is the best remedy for just about all

9. Emulate those you admire the most for their great leadership
skills. There are people who keep going even under the most direful cir-
cumstances. Why? How do they do it? Tap into that power (take them to
lunch!) to keep your spirits up and your energy high.

10. Hang a picture in your office that reminds you of what is re-
ally important in your life (your family, pet, Harley, whatever).
This ensures you maintain focus, clarity and a sense of purpose as you
move forward. I have several nicely framed family photos sitting atop a
file cabinet in bird’s eye view of where I work. They remind me each day
of the wonderfulness in my life.

11. Put up a sign that forces you to laugh and take action when-
ever you feel you are at your wits end! Behind my office door, dis-
creetly tucked underneath a jacket, reads: “Don’t let the !@*%!-ard’s get
you down!” I look at that whenever my chips are down and I need a dose
of “get going medicine.”

Cowering in fear waiting for the phone to ring is not the solution to a prob-
lem. It is the problem. Brush up on the tips above and you just might
find the solution you are seeking.

things differently and making things happen in a very restricted economy.
Let me explain.

I just returned from Evian, France, where the World Entrepreneurship

Forum (, the first world-
wide think-tank dedicated to entrepreneurship and its role in society, took

The forum brought together more than 80 participants, representing 35

nationalities, of the highest level: entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs,
political decision-makers and international experts.

The central theme of the forum was “Entrepreneurship as a creator of

economic wealth and social justice,” and attendees came away with rec-
ommendations for how we can create a more favorable environment for
entrepreneurship, how we can assess the actions taken by entrepreneurs
and how we can better train the entrepreneurs of the future.

Throughout the entire rigorous two-and-a-half day program, never did I

hear a word about how bad the economy is. Our focus was on creating
an environment in our world where every citizen has a chance to become
an entrepreneur — in good times or bad — and ensuring improved eco-
nomic conditions for all. Why? Because it’s the entrepreneurs and small
businesses in the world that will lift us up to a new and improved global

Whether it is through client work at my own business (www.globetrade.

com), membership in the World Entrepreneurship Forum ( or serving as a facilitator for women presi-
dents of multimillion dollar enterprises (www.womenpresidentsorganiza-, here’s what I’ve heard many entrepreneurs
#9 16 Ways to Dodge An Economic and small business owners saying repeatedly about what they are doing to
dodge the economic crisis:
1. Be resilient. You can’t predict the future, but you can make a
I sure am tired of hearing and reading about the global financial crisis. plan with a lot of good built-in choices and adjust along the
Why just Thursday The Wall Street Journal headline was: “Market’s Fall way to accommodate circumstances. When things stabilize,
Deepens as Concerns Mount on Banks.” Yes, it’s a reality — we are in an you will be in good shape to go full speed ahead — on some-
economic crisis and the flow of capital to grow our businesses stinks — but thing.
we don’t have to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. 2. Keep things simple. Don’t over-commit or over-strategize on
projects or ventures where only a rocket-scientist can decipher
What should you be doing to deal with this situation? ­My advice is to stay what’s going on. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) theory ap-
as far away as possible from negative, can’t-make-it-happen kind of folks. plies more than ever now.
Hang out with like-minded global entrepreneurs and business owners 3. Create new avenues of growth. Stop heading down the same
who are on a mission to change the world — crisis or no crisis, money or dead-end path and start a new one (for example, going global)
no money. And believe me, it’s these kinds of individuals who are doing that achieves more favorable results.

4. Start a new company. Focus on a new beginning as opposed pany’s problems or your bosses’ or your colleagues’ problems
to meeting payroll. People will be hungry to work with you become yours. Yes, times are tough, but show courage under
during a slow time. fire. If you do, you will be first up for a promotion after the
5. Tighten all controls, but don’t turn into a control freak. Be dust settles.
mindful of metrics and how to track results but give enough
freedom that people can feel empowered to get things done. So, while others are lamenting the state of the economy, you can take
6. Bill in advance, during and afterward on all projects until funds these steps to overcome the crisis and strengthen your business and the
are in the bank. Cash flow is what keeps you in business. world.
7. Keep morale up. Communicate as best you can and as often
as possible with your employees and stakeholders about the
health of the company and the impact the global economy has
on it. Work smart to stay lean, mean and strong so that when
the tide turns, you are in a healthier position to take on new
initiatives — together.
8. Terminate underperforming business units, divisions, product
lines or service offerings. Don’t let pride get in the way of tak-
ing action on things that, if not treated, may deteriorate the
entire organization.
9. Rediscover your balance sheet and P&L statement. Take stock
of actual sales versus projected sales and where you stand
financially this year compared to last year on sales and profits.
10. Do better work. Mediocrity is not sustainable during a down-
turn. Exceptionalism will become the norm and a way to set
yourself apart from competitors.
11. Look for value. Buy real estate, stocks, companies or cars, for
example, or, if the price is right, rent that space you always
dreamed about.
12. Cut costs. But not so much that you can’t obtain prosperity.
Trim the fat and nurture what’s left to get as lean as possible.
13. Invest in social capital (
capital). Launch social media and networking platforms to
make connections within and between social networks as well
as connections among individuals to foster a sense of common
good and community.
14. Learn how to sell. Prior to tough times, some business owners
stopped going out on business calls because they preferred to
focus on big picture thinking. Not anymore. CEOs now go on
calls to impress big clients and teach everyone else in the or-
ganization the importance of generating revenue for the firm.
15. Lead in a new way. Be the change you want to see within your
organization. Pretend you have just been brought in to the
company. Make tough decisions that you were afraid to make
before difficult times to illustrate newfound leadership skills
that employees can be proud to imitate.
16. Don’t be a wimp. What I mean by that is, never let the com-

#10 Questions for the Author of “Rules business, government, or organized religion. When I got home from that,
I realized that we all need to be moral leaders, and that we need to devise

of Thumb” a way to create a conversation about the kind of future we want to create
together. “Rules of Thumb” is my invitation to that conversation.

Allow me to get this off my chest 2. Who did you write it for?
right off the bat. I have had a
major intellectual crush on Alan M. I wrote it for my children, of course, and also for anyone who is looking to
Webber ever since he wrote a gem learn, to teach, to grow, and to perform as a leader and a person during
of a book called “Going Global,” this time of enormous uncertainty and transition.
( which
was light years ahead of its time on
the subject of globalization (pub- 3. What’s the gist of it?
lished a decade earlier than Thomas
Friedman’s classic bestselling book I suppose the gist of it is that we all need to pay attention to the new rules
“The World Is Flat”). Ever since of work and life; that the world is changing and we are all responsible for
then, I have both admired and how it changes — and to guide our own lives, our companies, our families,
deeply respected Alan’s work from and our communities in a direction that makes sense, that works, that has
afar. Considered one of the bright- positive results, and that is sustainable.
est minds, you’ll understand why
after you read his interview. 4. What will readers learn from reading the book?
For those of you who are hear- Readers will learn how I see the world; how to begin to see the world for
ing about Alan for the first time, themselves with fresh eyes; some things about leadership, creativity, in-
he is former editor and co-founder novation, that could help them as they find their own way in the world.
of Fast Company Magazine, for-
mer editorial director and manag- 5. If there is one rule of thumb you had to live by, what
ing editor of the Harvard Business
Review, a columnist and author of would it be and why?
a new book, “Rules of Thumb: 52
Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self” (http://tinyurl. Rule #52, the last one I wrote tells us all to pay attention — there are
com/qyvmv9). It is hands down one of the best and wisest business books teachers everywhere. If we pay attention to what we’re doing, to who
I have ever read. Alan doesn’t believe in spin for the sake of spin to get we’re meeting, to what is actually going on around us, we’ll all make bet-
the word out on his book. If he did, it would have hit the best-seller list ter choices, have a greater awareness of what matters, and be more alive
overnight. Instead, he relies on folks like me to tell the truth and slowly to the possibilities in life and in work.
put the good word in. That said, if I had a bottomless piggybank, I would
gift this book to everyone I know so they could reflect on it and become a 6. According to your book and your own life experience,
better and wiser person. It’s a must-read. what is the recipe (key ingredients) to becoming a great
I set out to ask Alan critical questions relating to how his book came leader?
about. Here’s our interview:
Being an active listener; a passionate and involved person; a person with
high standards and moral clarity; being focused on things that really mat-
1. Why did you write “Rules of Thumb”? ter; caring about more than just yourself.

I wrote “Rules of Thumb” after giving a speech to a CEO and his executive
7. How will your book change our world for the better?
team on leadership. At the end of the speech, the CEO asked his team to
name one person in America with “moral leadership” — the kind of person Ah, good question! By telling the truth, I hope!
you’d follow based on their character and life-view. The entire room was
silent for about 5 minutes. No one could think of a single name — not in
8. Where can people go to learn more about “Rules of

Thank you, Alan, for sharing your wisdom. Now, to all of you: What’s
the rule of thumb that you live by? Share here or go here (www.rulesoft- to add to the conversation.

Ever hear the expression “Fake it until you make it”? According to Wikipe-
dia (, it means to “imitate confidence so that as
the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence.” Some
folks live by it.

3. Discipline.
You’ve got to be organized, detail-oriented and a self-starter. When you’re
carving out your own path, you can’t expect round-the-clock guidance,
so don’t rely on anyone except yourself. Creating disciplined business
processes as well as clear goals and objectives are vital to track and to un-
derstand eventual success. Take the recent movie “The Providence Effect
(,” about Providence St. Mel School in
Chicago, where President Paul Adams III has managed to break the cycle
of poverty and give poor children the same opportunities as wealthy ones
by practicing one old-fashioned high-performance trait: Discipline. With-
out it, he says, you can’t get a student’s attention.
#11 10 Traits of High-Performance
4. Imagination.
Leaders There are people who have an imaginative scope and natural creativity,
Achieving high performance in tough times is a serious challenge small but to be creative in every situation takes an unbelievable amount of en-
business owners face. The ultimate goal may be extraordinary business ergy. Imagination, creativity and innovation are all vital to thriving in your
performance, but you can still get comfortable and slip into mediocrity. To business, especially now more than ever during turbulent economic times.
obliterate status quo, do you have what it takes to become a high-perfor- Creative genius Walt Disney said: “I can never stand still. I must explore
mance leader? Ten traits characterize the people who do. and experiment. I am never satisfied with my work. I resent the limita-
tions of my own imagination.”
1. Positive attitude combined with energy!
5. Initiative.
According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter (, “Some
people become leaders no matter what their chosen path because their The more ambitious and innovative you are, the greater the need to take
positive energy is so uplifting. Even in tough times, they always find a inspired action and make something happen. Without initiative, ideas go
way.” And the nice thing about this form of energy is that it is potentially nowhere.
abundant, renewable and free, says Kanter. Focusing on the good in any
situation doesn’t mean you’re naive. It means you don’t want to waste 6. Emotional intelligence.
time on negative thinking. Taking the constructive approach — seeing
what your options and resources are, and making use of them fast — will You can be smart as a whip but if you don’t know how to handle tough
always get you somewhere. conversations with sensitivity, you won’t last long with colleagues, em-
ployees or peers. Everyone is looking for authenticity, transparency and
2. The two Cs: Courage. Confidence. purity of the heart and mind. When it comes to life’s sticky moments, get
unstuck. Learn a different way to be smart. Author Daniel Goleman gets
Courage: To grow, you must face painful issues, conquer your fears and it ( Do you?
confront adversity head-on. More often than not it can take more courage
to walk away from a situation than to leap into the fray. Moving forward at 7. Patience.
any pace when you’re dealing with the unknown takes courage, so apply it
in everything you do. In the global marketplace, pursuits take time, and your patience — the
ability to endure under difficult circumstances — will be tested time and
Confidence: Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, act as if you do. again. Riding out the highs and lows of running a business leaves an in-

delible mark on your mind about how you must learn to practice patience.
It is a virtue.

8. Perseverance.
Keeping up the struggle when there is no tangible benefit in sight takes
perseverance. Think along the lines of one of my favorite quotes by Wil-
liam James: “Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find
out they’ve got a second.” Isn’t that the truth?

9. Purpose.
Where are we going? How do we get there? Stick to what you stand for,
get everybody on board and don’t forget that you will have to face yourself
and live with your decisions every day. Take a time-out right now and ask
yourself: What’s my meaningful sense of direction for the company, with
precise strategic goals that can be measured?

10. Trust.
To become an effective, high-performance leader you must earn the trust
and confidence of others. Once trust is established, keep it, maintain it
and guard it because it is a gift that should never be taken for granted. To
foster trust, meet with clients, employees, colleagues and other key influ-
encers. Face-to-face contact is important — it builds trust. Show people
you are paying attention and that you care deeply about the health of your
relationship. Highlight best practices, be honest in your dealings and do
what you say you are going to do, no ands, ifs or buts.

Becoming a high-performance leader doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow

process that requires thought, discipline and lots of hard work. A little dose
of humor helps, too. Small businesses have always been known to com-
bine a vision of the seemingly impossible with a plan to shape the future
and make things happen. Put these 10 traits into action, and you could
fulfill your own version of the ideal, fully developed high-performance

cause I prefer to maintain my reputation as being trustworthy). I had the
help of the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer (
trust/2009/). The report highlights why trust is down. Government bail-
outs, the near implosion of the American auto industry and PSGW (Ponzi
Schemes Gone Wild) are some contributing factors.

So I decided to check in with six of my trusted colleagues to get their

thoughts on why trust matters and how they build it. Here’s what they

1. Marilynn T. Mobley, Senior Vice President, Strategic Counsel, Edelman

(; author of Baby Boomer blog (www.babyboomerin-; United States

Trust must be earned every day and yet it can be destroyed in a single
day. ~ Marilynn Mobley

Trust is one of the most important factors in determining a person or

#12 How To Build Trust company’s reputation. When people believe you will always do the right
thing, that you’re transparent and forthcoming, they want to do business
with you. The companies that are most trusted are those that truly engage
With the current market condition of tight credit, the escalating cost of
with their customers. They listen to them, act on suggestions, look for op-
doing business and the ubiquitous Internet, global competition is hot and
crowded. And what’s one of the issues that keeps surfacing? Trust. That’s portunities to support causes that matter to them, and focus on continual
what this entry is all about: Why trust matters and how to get, keep and improvement. Trustworthiness can’t be faked. It isn’t something you do
maintain it. It’s the one thing we need and want, yet it’s so hard to get — it’s what you are. Trust must be earned every day and yet it can be
and keep. destroyed in a single day.

But why? 2. Dara K. Griffith, CPA, CMA, CFM, Director, Entrepreneurial Services
Group; Co-Director of Women’s Leadership for the Great Lakes Economic
Case in point. While running a global small business, I meet a lot of Unit of RSM McGladrey, Inc. (; United States
people via email, on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, through our blog and at
conferences, and I think I can trust them. (Why not? There’s no reason Having the courage to say “I don’t know” can sometimes create trust more
not to until proven otherwise.) But in most cases, I probably should not effectively than having the instantaneous answer. ~ Dara Griffith
because I have no history with them.
It is important to be technically competent in order to create professional
With the Internet, anyone can claim to be an expert in anything at any respect in my line of work.  But to create trust with a client, it is even
time. Competitors are everywhere on the planet, but can they be trusted? more imperative not to feign expertise.  My clients trust the accounting
How do you distinguish yourself from them? How do you prove to the advice that I give them because they know that if I do not personally have
world that you are the real deal and can be trusted? the answer, I will find the expert in our firm who does.

To me, a trustworthy person is someone who is totally authentic, trans-

Attempting to talk around an issue or give less than accurate information
parent in their dealings, has a strong sense of who they are (a noticeable
sense of purpose), takes responsibility on things (no excuses, just results), will quickly diminish any trust that you have built.  I learned this valuable
and always does what they say they are going to do. Is that what you lesson several years ago after a job interview.  I was told that my sincere
look for, too? answer of, “I don’t know what that is, but I do know where to research it,”
was refreshing. It was the final factor in their decision to give me the offer.
Since this notion is so prevalent globally, I declare the next new trend or
deliverable in 2009 will be trust. But I can’t take total credit for it (be- Having the courage to say “I don’t know” can sometimes create trust more

effectively than having the instantaneous answer. Also, I go out of my way to make people feel professional, and I never try
  to gain an advantage at someone else’s expense. I feel there is plenty of
 3. Paul A. Dillon, CMC, President/Owner, Dillon Consulting Services LLC room for everyone to be successful — it’s not a zero sum game. Unfortu-
(; United States nately, we live in a time when people think it is perfectly OK to just blurt
out some utterance about how they just absolutely hate something, or
Trust is not a one-night stand. ~ Paul Dillon they harshly criticize someone on the Web, using words and a tone they’d
never use if they were speaking to someone one-on-one.  I would not like
In my more than thirty-five years in business, government, the military, to be on the receiving end of such statements. I would feel blindsided.
academia, and the non-profit sector, here is how I’ve earned the trust of Anyone would.  So I try hard to temper my own statements so they are
companies, colleagues, and clients: more thoughtful and measured.  I just try to cut people some slack.  Don’t
  we all deserve a little slack, some common courtesy?
Do what you say you’re going to do. Nothing builds confidence in  
your trustworthiness more consistently and unfailingly than doing what Now the big question:  Do I always succeed?  No, I’m not perfect.  I just
you’ve said you’re going to do. And, conversely, nothing destroys people’s do the best I can.
perceptions of how trustworthy you are than failing to live up to your com-
mitments. 5. Patrick Molle, President, EMLYON Business School, educating entre-
preneurs for the world (
The truth shall set you free. Speak the truth, as you see it, forcefully aspx); Founder, World Entrepreneurship Forum (
and clearly. Don’t pander. Don’t worry about not being politically correct.; France (Total disclosure: I am a member of the
Don’t worry about what other people might think. You can do this without World Entrepreneurship Forum)
being offensive, and people will see that you are worthy of their trust.
When in doubt, I use time, personal intervention, and feedback to assess
the extent of trust I will give. ~ Patrick Molle
It isn’t about you; it’s about them. This is the hardest part. In all of
my working years, I have met only a handful of people who are truly com-
The way I maintain trust in business is by focusing both on results and on
mitted to the welfare of others, even at their own expense. Most people
continuous development.
are much, much too selfish. But, demonstrating to people that you put
them first is absolutely critical to building trust and confidence in your abil-
• Results: My conviction is that trust builds up every day and needs to be
ity to lead. You want to be somebody people would follow to a place where
regularly nourished by concrete evidence that the partnership is working.
they wouldn’t go by themselves.

• Continuous development: By setting higher targets all the time and sha-
Trust is not a one-night stand. It takes years to convince people that ring new dreams with our partners, I try to conduct a movement forward
you are truly worthy of their trust and confidence. It is something that is that attracts, retains and commits partners to support us.
built up slowly and consistently over a long time. So, get started now.
Trust can be challenged, and crises might arise: I consider it a normal
4. Anita Campbell, Editor, Small Business Trends (www.smallbiztrends. part of life. I do not try to avoid them, and I sometimes create them to
com); United States clarify a situation. My experience shows me that, by holding position, even
going through turbulent and difficult phases, these kinds of situations help
To instill trust, I try to treat people as I would like to be treated.  This me identify who I can or cannot really trust.
shows up in ways big and small. ~ Anita Campbell 
  When in doubt, I use time, personal intervention, and feedback to assess
One thing: I never quibble over minor sums of money — just pay it.  For the extent of trust I will give.
instance, when I pay via PayPal, I try to include an additional sum to cover
any PayPal fee that may be charged to the recipient. It makes a nice dif- 6. Alan M. Webber, former editor and co-founder of Fast Company Maga-
ference to the recipient and costs me relatively little.  I also stand behind zine; former editorial director and managing editor of the Harvard Busi-
whatever I say, even if it is about something I spoke hastily about and ness Review; a columnist and author of a new book, “Rules of Thumb: 52
later regretted.  Going back on my word is more costly than living up to Truths For Winning At Business Without Losing Your Self” (http://tinyurl.
something, even if I made a mistake and it costs me money. com/qyvmv9); United States.

Stay alert. There are teachers everywhere. ~ Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber reminds us that, when it comes to trust, be willing to change

your mind about someone, and learn to trust yourself.

Straight from his new book:

Rule #52: You simply have to stay open to what you’re hearing and be
willing to listen and learn. You may be with someone you’ve already writ-
ten off when all of a sudden that person says something really smart, the
kind of thing that makes you sit up like you just got hit between the eyes
with a smart stick. It may even come out of your own mouth and leave
you wondering, “Did I say that? I wonder where that came from. I won-
der if I could do that again.” You won’t know if you’re not listening.

You need to be alert. You need to pay attention. You need to be ready.

Now, it’s your turn. Are you ready? Are you paying attention? Do you
think trust matters? What do you do every day to get and keep trust?

#13 A Powerful Solution to Our Current ly sales and gross margins by hand until they get a feel for the health of
an organization. Once you’ve been in a “How do I pay my people?” posi-
tion, you never forget or go there again without involving the people.
Economic Crisis
5. Achieve results. Where there is a will, there is a way. There is no
You know the greater will than that of an entrepreneur’s spirit. But before an entrepre-
feeling when the neur can achieve results, he or she must take financial responsibility for
whole world has an idea and morph it into something we hadn’t envisioned. Think Sam
let you down. Walton. Steve Jobs. Thomas Edison. A good example of this is in The
Isn’t that what Wall Street Journal article, “Entrepreneurs Can Lead Us Out of the Crisis”
we are experi- (
encing right now?
To get you in the 6. Reach a whole new level of work ethic. A product, service or whole
right frame of new business launch, for example, is not complete to an entrepreneur un-
mind, let me ask less, in the process, ideas continue to spread, profits are made, jobs are
you this: What created and there’s a great feeling of, “We’ve changed the world!” Nobody
would you do if knows this eureka notion better than the Kauffman Foundation, often
you were at the referred to as the world’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship
beginning stage (
of an enormous
snowstorm that showed no signs up letting up? Surely, to get ahead of it, 7. Take action until it’s right. We don’t want bureaucratic inaction. We
you’d grab a shovel and start shoveling or jump in your car to buy the last want smart small-company or entrepreneurial action. Never underesti-
snow blower on the floor. Well, in our current economic mess, the solu- mate the vast creativity and importance of the entrepreneur. It’s not so
tion is right in front of us, too. Hire the best and brightest entrepreneurs much the size of the operation that matters; it’s the ability to turn ideas
(yes – that’s us!), and put them to work! Who else is going to try some- into viable enterprises or turn problems into marketable opportunities.
thing new that will shake us out of these tiresome doldrums? Here are ten
things entrepreneurs can do that make them smart power resources. 8. Assume significant accountability for the inherent risks and outcome.
Think the employees at Enron or WorldCom thought this way? Had each of
1. Diagnose and fix the problem. It will take a whole slew of entrepre- them thought it was “my” business instead of “theirs,” things might have
neurs to see what nobody else sees, do what nobody else can do and act turned out quite differently. For entrepreneurs, there are no excuses, just
on a sustainable global solution. An entrepreneur knows how to bring results. Entrepreneurs don’t let excuses or distractions get in the way. If
good ideas to life and turn them into viable enterprises. They also know they screw up, they take the blame and talk next about how to make it
that to treat a crisis, you have to identify it first and then offer plenty right.
of options. For entrepreneurs, those options are only as limited as their
imaginations. 9. Focus on value-add and value-creation. Call it what you may – vi-
sion drive, passion – but entrepreneurs have what it takes to formulate a
2. Fix problems of any size. For the entrepreneur, no job is too large or unique selling proposition that no one else can duplicate. They are experts
too small. Besides, it’s not the problem that is worth tackling, it’s the at this and clearly let nothing get in their way of keeping the value chain
challenge, which empowers an entrepreneur to do something, anything, to clean and clear.
mitigate the problem.
10. Look at crisis as an opportunity. The Chinese word for crisis shares a
3. Give you accurate and timely results. Entrepreneurs are known for character with that for opportunity. Have you ever known an entrepreneur
taking baby steps (and jumping leaps and bounds too, if required to get a that did not look at a crisis as an enormous opportunity?
job done), tracking progress, reporting results and tweaking a plan as they
go. In that spirit, let’s collectively take charge of our future. Hire that smart
power resource called an entrepreneur, and let’s start celebrating our suc-
4. Help you control expenses. How many entrepreneurs have started a cesses.
business on a shoestring? Raise your hands. Mine’s up. An entrepreneur
knows that every penny counts even after sales and profits roll in — or
don’t roll in, whatever the case may be. Many entrepreneurs track month-
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About the Author

Connect With Laurel


Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder of
(a Global TradeSource, Ltd. company). She also is the creator of “Border- Wiki
buster,” an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog (http://bor-, all highly regarded for their global small business
coverage. You can reach Delaney at or 773- Twitter:

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