Meetings with Remarkable Men

MeetingsWithRemarkableMenI saw a strange French movie in 1979 that made a big impact on me. It was called Meetings with Remarkable Men and told the story of G.Gurdjieff, a philosopher who traveled through Central Asia in order to discover spirituality through dance, music, near-encounters with death and by meeting remarkable people along the way.

Over the last 24 hours I have had 2 encounters with remarkable men. Both related to my last blog entry regarding how to handle a crisis. I learned something new.

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A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste (Part 1)

My own company is in a crisis right now… a real crisis with tough decisions to make, sleepless nights to endure and an impending sense of doom that is like a nasty hangover.  A bit of bad luck, bad timing, some strategic mistakes and a global financial crisis have all combined into a witch’s brew of a startup company cash-flow mess.  The squeeze we have gotten ourselves into is not all that uncommon for most small business leaders and entrepreneurs. A friend said “just get used to it… the bigger your business, the higher the stakes and the smaller your odds of survival”.  Thanks for the depressing thought.

Now before you all start to worry that I am about to throw in the towel, shipwreck the business and go take a job flipping hamburgers at McDonalds, just relax for a moment. I am attacking this situation head-on because…
A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste.

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Expose yourself and show your heart

exposeYourselfExposing yourself may get you arrested, but for a small business it is critical. Too many startups fail to clearly communicate who they are – I mean who they REALLY are.

Today I held a speech for approx. 250 small business leaders from an association in Norway called Growth Companies (Vekstbedriftene). These companies are all small manufacturing or service companies that employ handicapped workers. Some of their employees have physical handicaps, others have psychological handicaps, but all are special people with special needs. These Growth Companies must adapt the work environments and the tasks to the specific needs of each worker. Yes, the government subsidizes their companies, but the focus here is on creating top-quality products, providing excellent customer support and giving employees meaningful and productive work. They asked me to speak on how to increase sales revenues in spite of the downturn of the finance crisis.

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Throw away 1000 years of history

When I arrived in Trento, Italy on Thursday the first thing I noticed were the city walls. Since the medieval times they have kept out invaders from the north and conquerors from the south. When you are reminded of your ancient past each day, perhaps it makes it harder to understand that THE PAST IS NOT THE FUTURE.

I was a speaker at a venture event in Trento this week that was sponsored by the local government and businesses. This region is making a fantastic effort in their attempt to break from the traditional thinking of old Italy and Europe and to foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. While perhaps this may sound novel, the reality of changing peoples’ beliefs and even values is daunting. In almost every single meeting I had with entrepreneurs it only took about 3 to 4 minutes before they started by telling me how difficult it is to succeed with a startup in Italy. It was almost as if they felt it was their task to convince me that this was impossible!

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Entrepreneurs are Losers

LoserA few weeks ago I was standing in line at the store behind two boys. They were probably 13, maybe 14 years old and these guys were really cool. They wore low-rider pants that constantly tried to slide down to their knees, big T-shirts advertising their favorite vampire heavy metal bands. One had a skateboard under his arm while the other had a ski hat tugged down over his ears in spite of the warm day. I overheard them talking about a friend of theirs who had recently quit the skateboarding scene and moved on to something else (I think they said he quit skateboards and started chasing girls…). As they talked about him, they both stopped, looked at each other and simultaneously lifted their right hands to their foreheads. Placing their thumbs against their foreheads and extending their index finger straight up, they had both created the big “L” sign. This stands for “Loser”. Having both agreed on this point and signaled what they thought about it, they smiled to each other and went on to talk about something else.

Are Entrepreneurs Losers?

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Pitch Your Baby

I have a friend who just had his first child. He’s over the moon about this baby and OK, all his friends are happy for him too, but he sends out constant emails with photos, short video clips, frequent little stories about first baby steps. There are facebook pages and even twitter messages from time to time. This is a great example of pitch and even the most experienced entrepreneur in the world could learn a thing or two from a new parent.

This is how you should pitch your startup company… just like it was your newborn baby child. Pitch your business with enthusiasm, pride, a strong sense of purpose and a belief that this baby will someday grow into something big and fantastic!

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