If there is no struggle, then there is no progress

“If there is no struggle, then there is no progress” The title of this blog is a quote from Fredrick Douglass. He was born a slave in America in 1818. After two failed attempts to flee from a brutal slave owner, he finally succeeded in escaping to freedom and went on to educate himself and become a leading writer, newspaper editor and champion voice of the slaves during the American Civil War.

If there is no struggle, then there is no progress.
What does this say for entrepreneurs?

I attended a seminar on entrepreneurship last week where co-founder of Opera Software –  Jon von Tetzchner was one of the speakers. He made an interesting statement. He said that while Opera used over 2 years to get their first seed capital, he said that he is 100% certain today that if they had gotten the funds right away, that they would not have survived. His claim was that the the very process of having to struggle and go through a long and demanding process of searching for capital was one of the things that made them stronger. Tetzchner said that in the process, their business focus sharpened and that each “no” made them tougher.

How important is diversity to an entrepreneur? I often ask groups of entrepreneurs to list the most important characteristics or traits that they must have in order to succeed. “Stubbornness” is always one of the top 5 traits. Stubborn as a mule.

Churchill said something like: “Success is moving from one defeat to another without losing heart”.

The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck”.

Carolyn Salmon (Rick’s Mother) often said “Remember that God’s delays are not God’s denials”.

What do you think? Leave your comments.

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Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Great Networking Trick

Last week I accidentally discovered a great new networking trick. I was attending a lecture on Entrepreneurship in Norway. I walked into the auditorium where there were 100-150 chairs setup. I was early, so I went to the front of the room and sat in the chair that was nearest the podium in the first row where there happened to be an electric plug for my Mac. As each of the speakers, the experts and the VIPs arrived – those that were scheduled to speak – one after the other they came and introduced themselves to me. Since I was sitting close to the podium and since I had on a suit they all just assumed that I was someone very important or one of the other expert speakers. I shook their hands, we exchanged cards and I proceeded to ask them lots of questions concerning what they were going to speak about. I had a great time. They had a great time (because they got to talk about themselves) and I came home with a handful of the best business cards I had collected in a long time. Some of them are still probably asking themselves “who was that guy really?”

Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone, says that Networking is one of the most important keys to success in a startup business. It will help you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who’ll support your ideas. My experience is that being a great networker may not be absolutely essential, but it certainly makes things a lot easier and more fun.

According to Ferrazzi, successful networking is all about building close, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity. He says that entrepreneurs cannot achieve their career goals on their own. They have to network their way to success.

Many years ago I was co-founder of a software company and one of the other founders was a genius. A real genius. I mean the serious, lifetime member of MENSA, IQ-of-186 type genius. He was so brilliant that he was often challenged in other more normal social settings. This was good for me to understand. I am nowhere near what would be called genius, but OK, I have other talents. We worked well together as a team because we complimented each other. In today’s business world, you will need other people to help you to succeed and to provide the diversity necessary to solve complicated problems and challenges. Few successful entrepreneurs succeed by flying solo.

Dale Carnegie literally wrote the book on networking in 1936. How to Win Friends and Influence People demystified the process of making friends out of strangers and inspired legions of business coaches to carry on Carnegie’s message. His methods were so simple, yet so fundamentally useful. Here is what he recommended:

1. Smile – Simple huh? While this is easy enough, when I attended a networking event last week and I looked around the room to see how many people were actually smiling. I was shocked to see so many sour faces…lots of people frowning and staring down at their own shoes.

2. Ask Questions – Most people spend all their networking time talking about themselves. They drone on forever. Networking is about asking questions and being truly curious about the other person. If you take the time to ask, you will be surprised how fascinating, interesting and fun even the most boring person can be.

3. Listen – It is not enough to just ask questions. You have to stop to listen. I mean really listen. Listen to what they are saying. Listen to what they are not saying. Listen with your ears, your eyes and your gut feeling. Give generously of your time and attention. Nothing is more highly valued in our society today.

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Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Can Entrepreneurship Empower Palestinians?

Last week I was asked to join a group of coaches and investors to design and lead a program for Palestinian entrepreneurs from the West Bank. This week I have been doing a lot of thinking. Thinking about conflict resolution. Thinking about peace. Thinking about empowerment and the role that entrepreneurship can play…

An article in yesterday’s Norway Evening Post discussed the problems in the UK with generational unemployment. 11% of the children in the UK grow up in a family where no one works. No one. The programming starts at birth. Children learn to believe in limitations. Severe limitations. There are very few good examples and even fewer role models. There is only a strong belief – being reinforced daily – that their situation is hopeless and futile. Thus, their likelihood of breaking out of this environment is slim. Generation after generation, the problem gets passed on.

What kind of beliefs are young Palestinian entrepreneurs being taught? What do the children of Palestine believe about their own chance to create their own future? Isn’t this really a question of empowerment?

The greatest gift in becoming an entrepreneur is not the money. It’s not the glamour of being your own boss nor the ability to work when and where you want. The greatest gift lies in knowing that you can create your own future. True entrepreneurship and true empowerment is believing that no matter what situation arises or whatever circumstances occur, that you will be able to find a way to turn it around, to create your own business, to survive and to thrive.

How can we teach this to young Palestinians? How can we instill in them the belief that the future is really theirs to create? Empowerment is one of the only true paths to peace in Palestine. At least that is what I have been thinking…

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Please join the discussion and leave your comments. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Making the most of any situation

I did a workshop this week in Palermo, Italy for a group of MBA students and startup companies at the ARCA Technology Incubator. Palermo is a fantastic place of chaos, crowds, energy and even innovation.

I once heard a story about an American law professor who was in Italy holding lectures about the American law system. After one of his speeches there were 2 Italian students who approached him and said “Professor – is it true that in America if someone falls down and injures themselves on the sidewalk in front of a building, that the building’s owner is liable and can be sued?”  The Professor answered, “Well, yes, this is true if the owner can be proven to be negligent.” The two men started discussing this fervently amongst themselves in Italian with much waving of the hands and loud voices of enthusiasm. Finally the professor said, “So, would you fellows like to go to America to study Law?”   The Italians answered. “Oh no, no, no. We want to go to America and fall down on sidewalks!”

The Sicilians are champions at adapting and making the most of any situation. Sicily has been invaded and conquered by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Muslims, Normans, Catalan, Spanish and perhaps 10 other different empires throughout history. Governments come and go here, but the Sicilians remain. Somehow they make the best of the situation.  The architecture the conquerors left behind is an amazing mix of Gothic, Roman, Greek, Classic, Neo-classic and Tasteless. Most buildings are either in an advanced state of decay or under unorganized reconstruction. The sidewalks are narrow and impassible because there are armadas of small Fiats parked on every available square meter of sidewalk space. If no Fiats, then there are 22 motorbikes piled into a single parking space. The roads are disorganized, chaotic and without any easily visible signs or indications of direction or place. Billboards and garbage everywhere add an ambience that completes the picture. Palermo is hectic and yet somehow still lovely. It has a strange charm that takes some time to sink in. I don’t think that Palermo is really part of the western world. It is more like a third-world country that is disguised as a province of Italy. Silvio Berlusconi and his unique style of leadership was so popular here in the last election that he won 63 of 63 seats in congress. OK, personally owning most of the national media can be a bit helpful.

Amidst all the chaos and the mess, you will find the lovely and friendly people of Sicily.  Few speak English. I just went into the information center at the central train station and the two ancient, gray-haired men working there did not speak a word of English and were mildly irritated with me for wasting their time. Amazing, but if you are polite and try to use some travel-guide Italian phrases you will find that most people are patient, helpful and delighted to be of assistance. You will also find many smart researchers, scientists and professors in the technology centers.

Making the best of any situation is a useful skill, both for Sicilians and for entrepreneurs.

More Serial Entrepreneurs?

Yesterday I led a workshop for 20 young entrepreneurs in Dusseldorf, Germany. I asked them if they knew the expression “serial entrepreneurs”. Few did.  I asked if they knew the term “serial killers”. Yes. They all had watched enough TV crime shows to understand that term.

OK, so I challenged them to learn to become “serial entrepreneurs”. A serial killer commits one murder after another. A serial entrepreneur completes one startup and then immediately starts to dream about the next. Call this an illness or call it a calling in life. Some people just get it. Some people just don’t. Some people love the ability to convert an idea into a plan, a plan into a team, a team into a business, and a business into something of immense value and social change. Others just don’t understand the motivation that is needed to do this.

The workshop was the start of an 8-month program where 15 selected technology companies from the North Rhine Westphalia region will get special help, assistance, coaching and individual follow-up from experienced entrepreneurs and investors. In one way, this is a grand experiment. Just like young plants need special care and nutrients in order to grow quickly, this program seeks to nurture and to fertilize the environment where these 15 young companies will grow. The Dusseldorf region is a fertile growing ground. We are trying to make it even more so.

We need more serial entrepreneurs. We need more people who have learned how to start and build small businesses. We need more people that know how to write business plans and then how to raise capital to realize their dreams. We need more people who are willing to take risks and we need political systems that reward people who take initiative and create value.  The most important and vibrant part of any growing economy is the grassroots of startup companies that spring forth on their own.  Nurture them.

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Fake It or Be Yourself?

Years ago I heard a great story about networking. It came from an investor who had a different strategy than most. He was part of a delegation of US businessmen who were going to travel to Japan to setup new business relationships. Most of them attended a class where they learned about Japanese customs, etiquette and manners. They learned how to bow, how to present their business cards with two hands and a shallow nod, how to toast sake wine, etc.  The investor ignored these classes. He went out and purchased a giant box of big cowboy hats and took it with him to Japan. While all the others were busy trying to act like good Japanese, he would reach into his box, grab a cowboy hat, stuff it over the ears of the little Japanese businessman, grab his hand and shake him like a tree branch while exclaiming loudly “Howdy there Pardner! Niiice to meet ya’ll!”.  Guess who came home from the trip with the most business?  Guess whom the Japanese businessmen probably still remember?

Dare to be yourself. Sometimes we are so intent on pleasing the people we meet that we forget to be who we are. Good networking skills involve being very specific, clear and intentional in how you present yourself or your business, but mostly it involves being yourself.

I do a lot of work with entrepreneurs where we seek to clarify their message. We work in order to develop a brief Elevator Pitch message that is easy to remember yet addresses the specific wants of the investors or business partners they seek. Note that I say “want”, and not “need”. We buy our wants, not always our needs. For example, I need basic car transportation, but I really want a shiny little sports car. Communicating who you are in a manner that touches on the wants of your audience will help you improve your networking tremendously.

I met another person who introduced himself as a detective. Since he did not say anything more, I was puzzled. I asked what kind of detective. He answered “an existential detective”. I was even more puzzled. I asked how that could be. OK, he smiled and told me he was a priest and that his job was to help people find answers to life’s big existential questions. To this day I have forgotten the names of many other priests yet I still remember this one. Find a way to present yourself that helps others to remember you and to easily understand what you do, who you are and what you are looking for.

And have some fun too!

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.  ~Judy Garland

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Connecting the Dots

Steve Jobs: "Follow your curiosity & intuition"

Like most children, I loved drawing Connect the Dots pictures. I can envision myself staring at a new and particularly complex page of dots and numbers and trying to imagine what could possibly emerge from all that chaos.

Today, as an adult I look forward in my life and try to imagine what future can possibly emerge from all the dots. Some things are easy to foresee. Some things are impossible to imagine and yet there is a marvel and mystery in what the future may hold.

Steve Jobs delivered an amazing speech at Stanford University several years ago. The link to the video is here. In this speech he looks back on some of the major events of his life – dropping out of college, founding Apple, getting fired by the board, rejoining, recreating Apple and surviving cancer. It is an amazing story of inspiration and yet the central theme is that you cannot connect the dots looking forward in your life, only by looking backwards. You must move forward in your life without the numbered dots that will tell you what your next step should be.

Even though he was the founder and a major stockholder at Apple, Steve Jobs was fired. He was publicly ridiculed, humiliated, laughed at and defeated. In his speech Jobs says that this was probably one of the most important and necessary events in his life. Even though Apple had rejected him, he realized that he still loved what he did. This is what allowed him to keep going. He founded NEXT and Pixar, he helped create Toy Story, the world’s first computer animated movie and eventually, Apple hired him back.

When giving advice to the young Stanford graduates he says “Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else ‘s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Follow your curiosity.
Follow your intuition.
Listen to your inner voice.
Be brave and love what you do. The rest will work itself out. The dots will get connected.

Helen Keller was born without sight, hearing or the ability to speak and yet she was quoted as saying that “Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing”.

If you could look back on today 10 years from now, what would you remember? What will you do today that will be worth remembering 10 years from now?

If you read this blog, then you are probably an entrepreneur. If not an entrepreneur, then you are probably someone that wants to create something special with your life. Each day is a blank page. What will you write on yours today?

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Here is another interesting article about Steve Jobs and his career.

Celebrate Your Failures

Last week Google announced that their product called WAVE would be dropped, just 6 months after its birth. What was interesting about this announcement was that Google said “We celebrate our failures.”

This is a smart core value for a business to have. Last I checked, Google was not only immensely profitable, but also one of the most popular workplaces in America. Perhaps this comes as no surprise. Lots of companies talk about innovation, yet how many of them allow a project group to fail without some form of punishment or reprimand? Any company that creates an atmosphere of innovation and creativity must expect failures. It is part of the game.

According to the Guardian.co.uk, Chief executive Eric Schmidt said of the Wave failure that it is just a symptom of trying things out. “Remember, we celebrate our failures. This is a company where it’s absolutely OK to try something that’s very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that”.

Taking the learning from failure

As an executive coach, I have been trained to work with clients in order to help them to achieve their goals faster while enjoying the process more fully. The concept is called Forward the Action & Deepen the Learning. This means that I look for ways to help speed their progress towards achieving their goals, while at the same time deepening the learning from the process. When you fail at something, there is great learning to be had if you are willing to search for it. If you failed miserably then you can surely waste a lot of time feeling bad and defeated. Yes, there is a time for that, but afterwards if you stay with those thoughts then you will just be stuck there. A more powerful perspective is to focus on what you were trying to achieve and why you were trying to achieve it. For example, if your relationship failed, then instead of focusing on why it failed, focus rather on what you desired in the first place.

Google cancelled the WAVE product, but announced that they plan to utilize the core functionality in future products. “I’d file this under ideas that were just a little ahead of their time.“ said Schmidt. Being ahead of their time does not mean that the ideas were bad ideas. It only means that Google will have to try again in order to succeed with them. I suspect that they will. That is the kind of company that Google is.

What are some of the failures you have had in your own life or as an entrepreneur? What have these failures taught you?  There is a beautiful poem by Andre Bjerke called Amor Fati in which he writes “Your worst defeats are rich gifts laid in your hands”.

What gifts have been given to you in the form of defeat and failure?

Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.
Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips.

Marathon Man for Startups

Have you seen the old movie called Marathon Man? Dustin Hoffmann plays the part of an amateur marathon runner who gets mixed up with a group of nasty ex-Nazis who torture him with a dental drill. His training as a marathon runner helps him to endure the pain until he is finally able to win in the end. It is a great movie and a good lesson for entrepreneurs.

Sorry to write this, but you have to be able to endure a lot of discomfort and pain if you expect to succeed with a startup business. There are no real short cuts. There are no easy paths to success. There is an old line that says “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. The truth is that there is a lot of hard work and it usually takes time. Lots of it.  Creating a successful startup is a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint.

Read John Nesheim’s blog post entitled: Longest Tennis Game in History : Lesson for Startups.
He writes about the recent Wimbledon tennis match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut that lasted 3 days and ended in a tie-breaker with the score 70-68 (which is 183 games).  He writes the following:

BOTTOM LINE: Prepare for a very long run as you prepare to do your startup. Reality says you’ll be running a lot longer than you believe you will run. And you’ll run into unforeseen surprises as you round each corner. Those tennis players fought to the last stroke. You’ll be expected to do the same. When that is in your gut, your soul, then you’ll have what it takes.

Prepare indeed. Prepare yourself and adopt a strategy that will get you to the finish line with your startup business. Get help from experienced entrepreneurs who have already run the course.

I run a program for European Entrepreneurs called Fast-Track Funding. It is a program to accelerate the business development process and to increase the chances of getting seed funding quickly. It is not a short cut, but it will speed your progress. You can put your business on the fast-track to success. If you are interested in learning more, then contact me directly.

Am I crazy to be an entrepreneur?

Image from www.all4humor.comI woke up this morning and my first thought was that “I am crazy”! Stark, raving, mad, lunatic crazy. It was all triggered by an argument that I had with my business partner yesterday, which was by no means his fault.

Crazy can be defined as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. Crazy is when you have the most amazing product to sell, but your customer has no money. Crazy is when you create a sales forecast in Excel with hockey-stick escalating revenues, yet in your gut you know that this might not be too realistic. Crazy is when your business model is simply not working, but you refuse to see the light. Crazy is when we fool ourselves, both in business and in life.

But isn’t it necessary for entrepreneurs to be visionary? Don’t we have to own a dream? Don’t we have to see solutions where no one else dares to look or believe? Isn’t it necessary to “keep the faith” in spite of resistance? What if Thomas Edison had quit after over 1000 failed experiments to invent the light bulb? Isn’t that what makes some entrepreneurs great while others are only mediocre? Don’t entrepreneurs need to be a bit crazy?

In the book Awakening the Entrepreneur Within, by Michael Gerber, he talks about 4 different entrepreneur personality types. There is the DREAMER – the entrepreneur with the ability to see holes in the market and to discover innovative new ways of solving problems. There is the THINKER – the one who takes the dream and figures out the mechanics and the strategy necessary to make it work. There is the STORYTELLER – the one who figures out how to tell the world about this amazing dream, and then there is the LEADER – the one who buys the dream, understands the strategy, embraces the story, but takes LEADERSHIP.

My wife’s favorite mantra is “Balance, balance and even more balance”.

Balance is what entrepreneurs need. To succeed you must have all the 4 personality traits, not just one. You cannot be just a dreamer. You must also balance this by being a good thinker, storyteller and leader as well.

Nobody ever said that being an entrepreneur would be easy. Don’t give up your dream, but seek the balance that will make it all work.  I promise that I will.

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Want to turn-around your business and achieve results in record time? Contact me to discuss Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and Management for Hire services for technology companies. You can learn more at www.ricksalmon.comwww.xelerator.com and at www.e-unlimited.com.

Rick Salmon is an energetic entrepreneur who lives in Norway and believes that European startup companies can succeed and grow quickly if only they get the proper help and assistance. Subscribe to this newsletter/blog to receive frequent updates and tips. Contact me if you want to find out how we can help accelerate your business.

Image from www.all4humor.com

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