I don’t mean to make it seem like I’ve had a hard life. I was born into a typical middle-class family and even in my worst moments I’ve never gone hungry. Yes, I’ve had my gas turned off. Yes, I’ve received more than my fair share of “final notices”. I haven’t had a vacation in over 10 years. I’ve stretched the definition of a “3-month oil change”. I’ve even visited the odd payday lender. At the end of the day however, I’ve always had food on the table and a roof over my head. I’ve never had a major health issue. And other than these minor annoyances, I really can’t say that I’ve known anything close to extreme hardship.
But I still haven’t had an easy life. When you are an entrepreneur there is no such thing as easy.
Entrepreneurs are by nature dreamers. The bigger the dream, the deeper the passion, the harder it is to come to terms with difficulty and set backs.
I say “difficulty and set backs” instead of failure because when you carry a big dream backed up by deep passion, failure only happens when you give up. I’ve never failed at anything. I’ve worked through some difficulty, had my fair share of set backs and I’ve even had to completely rethink my plan, but I haven’t yet failed. As long as I am breathing – I will never fail!
In 2019 I’ve begun to evolve my financial services practice to include a coaching division for individuals and entrepreneurs.
I love entrepreneurship. Building your own business from nothing, starting with a bold vision scratched out on a napkin, so to speak, and working to make that vision a reality, is the closest thing many of us will ever come to winning an athletic championship.
Entrepreneurs have a lot in common with athletes. We are like prize fighters who step into the ring everyday and go 10 rounds with the world, or marathon runners who pound out mile after mile with no finish line in sight. The sports analogies are endless. No two groups of people are more dedicated to their dreams than athletes and entrepreneurs. Maybe that’s why so many retired athletes end up starting businesses when their playing days are over.
My coaching arm is focused on helping individuals and entrepreneurs realize their dreams of financial security. I will teach you to develop systems that transform your life from simply working and owning a job that is 100% dependent on your daily grind to owning a business that can run without you. And then finally owning something that someone else will pay top dollar to purchase.
Tim Horton owned a single donut shop, Ron Joyce built and then sold an empire. While Tim Horton created a brand, it was Ron Joyce who turned that brand into a household name, one of the most recognizable in Canada. My business consulting arm will help you grow from being Tim Horton, to Ron Joyce.
Check out the new website I’m developing for my consulting business and get in on the ground floor of what I predict could become one of the most successful firms of it’s kind in Canada. That’s right – I’m thinking like Ron Joyce for my own business too.
Building Relationships and Becoming a Trusted Advisor
“The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.” – Haji Ali; Village Elder – Korphe, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
In the spring of 1993, American adventurer Greg Mortenson was part of an expedition to climb K2, the world’s second highest mountain, located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of North Eastern Pakistan.
While making his descent in blinding snow he got separated from his group. Instead of arriving in the village of Askole, where base camp was located and the rest of his party had been headed, he ended up 3 kilometres off course in the remote village of Korphe.
Although only 3 km as the crow flies, Korphe is located on the opposite side of a deep chasm from Askole and due to heavy snow and the spring melt, inaccessible for over half the year. Mortenson was stranded in Korphe for several weeks while he waited for the snow to melt.
During his stay he noticed that the village was exceedingly poor and had no local school. During the winter months children would either leave their families and stay with relatives in neighboring villages or more often than not, simply stay home when they couldn’t get across the chasm to Korphe. Once the snow melted, out of gratitude for their hospitality, Mortenson pledged to return to Korphe and help them build a school of their own.
Fast forward twenty-five years and Greg Mortenson, through the Central Asia Institute that he founded, has built over 171 schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The full story of how it all started can be found in Mortenson’s autobiographical; “Three Cups of Tea; One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time.” Although some of Mortenson’s claims are suspect and he has been accused of financial mismanagement the fact remains that there are now dozens of schools providing education to thousands of children across the remote mountain regions of Central Asia, where there were none before.
I was reminded of Mortenson’s story recently while contemplating the often long and drawn out sales process in my business. More specifically, I remembered the way in which Haji Ali had explained to Mortenson how to go about building long lasting relationships with the Balti people – Slowly, over tea.
There are as many different approaches to sales as there are sales people and clients. There is no one-size-fits all approach. But over the years I have observed that most new sales follow a path that roughly correlates to Ali’s three cups of tea theory.
Meeting One – You are a stranger.
It is the sales person’s job in this first meeting to put the prospect’s mind at ease. Listen to the prospect’s needs, wants, goals, dreams, and fears. Do not interrupt. Remember, no one trusts you at this point, offering grandiose advice without a full understanding the problem will only reinforce that distrust. Speak only when necessary, asking clarifying questions, or answering questions directed at you.
Once the prospect has told you everything now is your turn to speak. Resist the temptation to offer a solution. Your job is to simply leave the prospect wanting to see you again. Give them the impression that you are the only person in the world who can help them. But don’t tell them how.
I often leave these meetings by saying something like, “You’ve given me a lot to think about. I know I can help you with this but it’s going to take me a few days to get my head around all this. Can I call you on Tuesday?”
When I call back on Tuesday like I promised I simply say; “I have found a solution to your problem, when can we get together so I can explain it to you?”
Meeting Two – You Are An Honored Guest
I’ve already told them that I have the answer. They are happy to see me and eager to hear what I have to say. They put on the charm and roll out the read carpet. It’s as if The Pope himself or some other wise guru has come to visit with a special word of wisdom just for them.
I begin by repeating back to them as verbatim as I can remember, the exact concerns they had the last time we spoke. I ask them for feedback and confirmation that I understood them correctly. When we are both in agreement that I understand the problem. I lay out the solution being careful to link it back to their specific needs every chance I get.
Some prospects will be so excited and happy about the solution that they will want to sign the contract right then and there. Unless you want to make a one-off sale and forever cement yourself in the prospect’s mind as a one problem solution, resist that temptation. Tell the prospect that they need to sleep on this. You are trying to go from honored guest to trusted family member. Family doesn’t rush into things. By telling the prospect to sleep on it you are simultaneously giving them an out and elevating your status to as the kind of person who has their best interests in mind, like family.
At this point I leave the meeting by saying, “Take your time with this, read it over, do your own research. If there is anything you don’t understand, call me. I’ll check back next Thursday and see how you’re doing.”
When I call back on Thursday I ask if they have any questions and then tell them when I am available to come by and implement the plan.
Meeting Three – You Are A Trusted Family Member
Now it’s time to do business. This time when I come, the prospects tend to greet me like an old friend or relative. The formality is gone, the red carpet has been replaced by a dusty floor mat. I am no longer the wise guru with all the answers, I’m the kind uncle, or brother who’s looking out for the family. There is no need to put on airs, I’ve already seen their dirty laundry, there is no point hiding it anymore.
At the start of the meeting I take a quick minute to reconfirm their needs and remind the prospect how my proposal solves their problems. At this point there are very few questions left to be answered. This meeting is light, conversation centers around general life and personal matters. Signing the contracts is just a formality and it’s done almost as an afterthought.
Once contracts are signed, I reinforce the family image but reminding the clients that I am in their corner. They can call me any time, day or night, there are no questions they cannot ask. I promise to stay in touch and set a reminder in my calendar to call them twice a year, once on the anniversary of the signing of the contracts and once on their birthday, just like family.
This process has worked for me consistently for 7 years. My best clients have become friends. Review meetings are more like reunions. Without even realizing what I was doing, I’ve been following the ancient Balti tradition of three cups of tea since I started in this business.
It works. But more than just being a tactic for making more sales, if you’re genuine it’s a great way to make friends. Most of my clients I think would agree, I’ve got a lot of friends.
You decide how much you want to improve by choosing how many roadblocks to remove so economy improves past a certain threshold – one where you’re suddenly performing your best at any age. – Philip Maffetone; The Endurance Handbook
While training for a triathlon I came across the above quote. Philip Maffetone is a world-renowned medical Dr. and trainer of high-performing endurance athletes. His patients include Olympic and World champions across several endurance sports including, marathon, ultra-marathon, Ironman and the Eco-Challenge adventure races.
Much of what Dr. Maffetone teaches centers around the importance of nutrition, rest and long-slow endurance training that builds up muscular resilience and trains your body to use its natural fat content for fuel over long distances. When he talks about removing roadblocks he is mostly talking about changes to behaviour and mindset that allow his patients to think differently about themselves and the training process in order to go to the next level.
Life, especially the life of an entrepreneur, is an endurance sport.
The more I get involved in the triathlon world the more I recognize the similarities between disciplines involved in endurance training and those involved in business and entrepreneurship. Here are just a few that I have observed so far.
Eating right reaps benefits across a broad range of activities. Carbs and simple sugars are responsible for most weight gain and general fatigue. The easiest way to lose those love handles and increase your energy is to cut out the carbs. Foods heavy in wheat and potatoes like bread, and chips are the most obvious culprits but don’t forget pastas and cereals too. Just stopping the late-night bag of potato chips for me was worth at least five pounds. I’ve since virtually eliminated breads and most potato products from my diet and I’ve never felt better, both physically and mentally.
A close second to eating right is getting enough sleep. Your body needs time to recover and repair itself after a long day and hard training. Nothing provides that time better than a good night’s sleep. Your brain needs it too. Falling into a rem state allows your brain to sort through all the sensory data it received throughout the day and never had time to process. Chronic fatigue leads to mental stresses and physical aliments with some studies even linking a lack of sleep to heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Consistently getting eight hours of sleep during the week might not be practical in our hyper connected and high-octane world but a modest goal should be at least 6.5 – 7 hours from Sunday to Thursday with time to catch a few extra hours on Friday and Saturday nights. I even like to go for a catnap of 20 minutes or so on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, for me there is nothing better than the feeling I get from catching a few extra zees when I come home from church on a Sunday afternoon.
3. Take it slow
Endurance training isn’t about knocking out your personal best every day. Incremental improvements come by consistently working toward a better time, but you are also training your body physically and mentally to handle the demands of the event. That means slowing down enough to listen to your body and allow your brain to communicate with your muscles. Once they know how to talk to each other, then you can push for a better time but that only comes after you’ve developed a solid understanding of what your body needs.
The same is true in business. You’re not going to sign the big deal every day. Especially in a planning-based business like mine, you need to be comfortable and confident enough in your process to take it slow and let the client’s needs and understanding evolve over time. Slow and incremental development leads to a plan that the client both understands and takes strong ownership in. Without that ownership your client could move with the whims of the market. The more your client takes ownership in the process, the less likely they are to leave you when times get tough.
4. Go Far
Endurance racing is all about the distance covered. Tell just about anyone that you ran a marathon and they won’t care about your time so much as they will be impressed that you finished at all. People who have never stuck with something that is hard long enough to see it through will usually look at you with a combination envy and adoration.
In business, going the distance means setting a lofty goal and then working tirelessly to achieve it, sometimes for years. When talk about the fact I was involved in 3 Juno award winning projects (Canada’s Grammys) during my days in the music business people are impressed. But nobody cares about the 12 years of late nights in the studio, smoke fills bars, hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, long days working the phones and endless rejection that preceded that first win. Or the second win. Or the third win. They only care that I was part of something amazing.
If it takes you 5, 10 or even 20 years to achieve your goal, so be it. Hard things take time, but they’re worth it.
In just about any endeavor, once you know what to do to achieve success, all you need to do is break it down into a repeatable process and just keep doing the same things over again. The first Juno took 12 years, we won the second one four years later, and the third just two years after that. It didn’t get any easier, we had just learned the process of recording, manufacturing, promotion and sales that would lead to success and were able to repeat the steps without wasting time on things that didn’t work. The same is true of everything worth doing, learn the process, cut out the redundancies, and repeat what works.
I am sure there are more parallels that I could draw between endurance training and business. Life is journey, not a destination. The journey is long. Eat right, get enough rest, take your time, go the distance and repeat the process and you will find success. That’s a promise.
By believing their lives are meaningless, modern thinkers are failing to act in their own self-interest, as the evidence now shows that people who embrace a spiritual view of a purposeful life (regardless of whether this view is derived from religion or from philosophy) are more likely to be happy and to find fulfillment in their one chance at life (regardless of whether that one chance is given by a Maker or by nature). – Gregg Easterbrook; The Progress Paradox, How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
Do you believe there is a reason for your life?
Better yet, do you live your life on purpose?
The world is an amazing place and it just keeps getting better. Today, people are more prosperous, healthier and less likely to get caught in war or violence of any kind than at any other time in history. Technology continues to make our lives easier, giving us the ability to do more in less time, and with greater accuracy. Thanks to medical advancements we are living longer with less chronic disease and recovering faster from injuries. Thanks to advances in international relations and trade we are less likely to be called to serve in our national armies and to die in war or other armed conflicts. In just about every metric imaginable, on a world-wide scale, life just keeps getting better and better every year.
Sure, there are some localized issues and climate change is a real concern but the men who died in the trenches of World War I would trade our problems for theirs in a heartbeat. Just over 100 years ago, if you got called into service in The Great War you were just as likely to contract the Spanish flu as you were to get shot in battle.
In 1651, philosopher Thomas Hobbes characterized the natural life of the human animal as, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. That is, without the existence of a benevolent centralized government. The role of government, according to Hobbes, is to temper mankind’s basest nature and promote a peaceful and prosperous society. Things obviously haven’t turned out quite the way he predicted but for the most part, Hobbes was right.
Today however we live in a time when, despite the fact we have built a society as close to Hobbes’ ideal as possible, people are convinced things are getting worse and life is meaningless. Why is that? Anyone can see that life today is better than it was yesterday. Why are we so easily convinced otherwise?
Personally, I think it has something to do with our inability to live on purpose. We are too easily influenced and manipulated by outside interests and too quick to think the worst when things don’t immediately go our way. We aren’t strong enough to remain focused and persevere through adversity, no matter how small. We’ve gone soft.
With a strong sense of purpose, we can weather just about any storm. When business is bad, government regulations make it more difficult to compete or get ahead, and family troubles conspire to steal your focus, it’s purpose that helps us rise above.
So today I want everyone to thing about their purpose. Why does your business exist? There are two times in the future when the answer to that question should cause you to alter course. The first is when you answer, “I don’t know”. When you no longer know why you’re doing something – stop doing it. The second is when you answer with something along the lines of “mission accomplished”. When the reason you’re doing something no longer exists, it’s time to re-evaluate and start something new.
Many organizations fear “mission accomplished” almost more than failure but this is more of vision problem than it is a purpose problem. If your stated purpose is to complete a specific project, what do you do when the project reaches a natural conclusion? Your purpose needs to be bigger than that, or you need to have the courage to shut it down and look for something new.
At this point in the New Year everyone is still talking about New Year’s Resolutions and making goal setting a priority. But somewhere in the hustle and bustle of everyday life a huge percentage of people are going to fail at their goals and simply give up. You might be doing great so far but once the kids go back to school and life goes back to “normal” those changes you promised to make to your eating and spending habits are going to start getting harder.
According to the Huffington Post only 8% of people keep their New Year’s Resolutions with most falling off the wagon within the first 3 weeks. People who set both short and longer-term goals at other times throughout the year tend not to fair much better.
The problem seems lie in the area of planning and the prevalence of an all or nothing attitude. Personally, I want to try and cut down on the carbohydrates and sugar in my diet, but it was my neighbor’s birthday yesterday and he insisted that I eat a piece of his double chocolate birthday cake. Well, there goes the New Year’s Resolution, I may as well forget it!
A better approach is to take the advice of the Navy SEALs, just focus on the task at hand, or look at the famous 12 step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and take it one day at a time. Hardly anybody hits a home run in their first at bat, loses 20lbs in a week or wins an Oscar the first time they step in front of a camera. Life is a process and incremental change is far more sustainable than going for the big splash all or nothing game changer.
To say that 2018 was a challenging year for my business would be an understatement. One of my stated goals was to increase sales 20%. Sales decreased, and I missed my goal by a whopping 37%. There were lots of things that went wrong last year that contributed to this huge miss but at the end of the day a lot of it had to do with my inability to hit the smaller, day to day markers that would have led to a better chance of success. I lost focus on the task at hand.
Goal setting is not the problem. Stephen Covey famously told us to begin with the end in mind, that’s goal setting but he also told us to put first things first, break-down each task to a series of simple steps and just keep doing the next thing.
So, before you give up on your New Year’s Resolutions or say that your goals are unrealistic or just too hard, take a breath. Achieving your goals is a process, break it down and ask yourself – what’s next?
Business leaders and professional athletes share similar mind-sets. This isn’t surprising because elite performance requires plenty of determination. The gift of physical talent is certainly the ticket to get into the room, but it is these characteristics of performance that help drive the talent toward real and lasting success. – Matt Dixon; The Well-Built Triathlete, Turning Potential Into Performance
I’m a triathlete. Why? Because it’s hard.
When I first started going to the gym, I got bored. There is nothing more boring to me than getting up at 5:30 in the morning, putting on shorts and a t-shirt to going to lift weights or run on a treadmill for an hour. When my Dr. told me that I needed to lose weight I joined the gym, but I was so bored after just 3 weeks I almost quit.
It was then that I realized something about myself. I need a goal. Not just any goal. For me to stay interested and motivated over a long period of time I need a specific, measurable and most importantly a lofty goal. In short, I need what Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” and other business case studies calls a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).
So, I decided I was going to run a half-ironman triathlon before I’m 50. I’m 47 now so I’ve got about 2 and half years to go. After that I just might shoot for a full ironman but one BHAG at a time.
As part of my triathlon journey I’ve been studying up on the science and technology of athletic training. Reading a lot and listening to podcasts. One of the surprising things I’ve noticed is that there are an incredible number of parallels between athletes and business leaders.
With the help of Matt Dixon’s book, I have identified at least 10 common traits. Here they are in no particular order:
1 – Be goal-oriented
All top performers, be they athletes or business leaders, have a clear and distinct vision. Goals may evolve over a career or a lifetime but you can’t achieve positive results without creating and then chasing a vision or set of goals.
2 – Commit to ongoing assessment
Staying on track is key and the best performers are great at personal reflection and self-assessment. But they also aren’t afraid to look for outside guidance and advice. It takes courage to regularly assess yourself and let others give you advice. It takes even more courage to make the necessary changes to your approach.
3 – Train for specificity
Great athletes have the ability to develop laser-like focus and carve through the noise to execute their plan. Great business leaders do the same.
4 – Be resistant to adversity
Managing and overcoming adversity is a major shared trait between business leaders and athletes. It’s not going to be a smooth ride, things will come up that threaten to derail your journey and navigation through hard times is the price of admission.
5 – Have patience
You have noticed I’ve been using the word “journey” to describe the path to success? I do that because it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Behind every overnight success is many, many years of hard work. Patience is a key attribute of every elite performer.
6 – Feed the passion
Achieving good results leads to a high that is unparalleled, but the high doesn’t last long and it won’t create the will to embrace the struggle. You have to fall in love with the process as much as the results to excel.
7 – Embrace support
No athlete or business leader can go it alone. No one has all the answers, the best performers are humble and spend time building an inner circle of experts who help drive the bus and maximize performance. Mentors, guides and a strong support team are common to elite performers across all disciplines.
8 – Achieve balance
Avoid dwelling on either failure or success. Celebrate victories but keep your emotions in check – yesterday’s achievement can quickly disappear and be forgotten in the face of new challenges. Life goes on, tomorrow always dawns with a clean slate regardless of what was written yesterday.
9 – Take calculated risks
A willingness to take risks comes in many forms. It most often involves a willingness to expose your weaknesses and being unafraid of failure. The best performers are willing to take risks with a purpose to strive for the next level.
10 – Make time for recovery
Establish a strong platform of health and recovery. You only have one body and if you don’t take care of it, it will fail you. Learn to appreciate the value of recovery and recuperation, get enough sleep, eat right, and don’t neglect your family and fiends, they are the people who will be there for you long after you have achieved everything you set out to do and are enjoying the fruits of your labors.
I’d like to hear from any other athletes/business leaders out there if there are any other common traits I may have missed, let me know in the comments.
It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great. – Jimmy Dugan; A League of Their Own
I love baseball!
As a kid it was the only sport that I was even remotely good at. That’s not saying much. My batting average was well below .250, and I was stuck out in left field, otherwise known as the no man’s land of defensive positions for kid’s baseball.
My saving grace was the fact that I had a good eye, or maybe I was just too timid to swing the bat and ten-year-old pitchers aren’t exactly known for their control. As a result, I batted second and walked a lot. I also scored a lot of runs because I was almost always on base when our best hitters came up. Defensively I was fairly decent at running down fly balls, but my arm was horrible, so all the opposing players had to us was tag up and they were reasonably assured of advancing at least one base, maybe two if my throw was weak or off line, which it usually was.
But I still love the game. Maybe also because as a Canadian kid who could never master the art of ice-skating and hated to be cold, playing hockey was out of the question. So I stayed inside and waited for spring when all the kids in town turned their attention from skating and black rubber hockey pucks to running and white leather balls.
As I got older, I noticed something else about baseball. It’s really hard.
Baseball is deceptively hard because at first glance, with the exception of the pitcher, it might not look like the players are really doing all that much. But hitting a ball, that’s approximately two and half inches in diameter, coming at you at 80-90 plus miles per hour, with a wooden club, keeping it within a 90 degree area in front of you and sufficiently away from 9 defenders so that you can run 90 feet without getting caught… is hard. Really, really, hard.
Success in baseball is measured in ratios. For a batter a ratio of .300 (or 30%) is considered good. That’s why it’s three strikes and you’re out, giving a hitter any less than three attempts would be unfair, and really boring to watch. That’s also why hitters are obsessed with their number of at bats. Most hitters will tell you they need to get up to bat at least 4 times in a game before they can have a reasonable expectation of contributing anything to the success of the team.
My baseball career ended when I was 14. My sub .250 batting average and rubber arm made me a liability that the increasingly competitive teams in our area just couldn’t take a chance on, so I retired. But the lessons I learned on the diamond have served me well in life and as we prepare to move into a New Year I’ve been thinking about a few of them while I’ve worked on my business plan.
Here are 4 things I learned playing baseball that have applications in business and in life.
1 – Do Hard Things
You never learn anything if everything you do is easy. John F. Kennedy, when he announced the United States plan to put a man on the moon in 1962 put it this way.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
It took seven years, but the things NASA learned along the way contributed to their success and have served humanity in ways many of us will never fully grasp.
The term “moon shot” stems from this moment in history. Pick a goal that is hard, that if you were to try it right know you are practically guaranteed to fail at and put all your energy into learning about it and getting better over a long period of time and you just might succeed.
2 – Success is Failure
Or put another way, every failure leads you one step closer to success. What happens when a batter strikes out? They come back the next time even more determined to hit the ball. I’ve done the math, nearly every success is proceeded by a failure, sometimes many failures. The key isn’t to try and knock the ball out of the park every time, it’s just to get a little better every day.
3 – Never Stop Learning
Professionals are always trying to get better at their chosen craft. Athletes study game tape and pick apart their performance, then they hit the gym or the practice field and work on their mechanics. They are constantly learning in order to get better.
Between 1962 and 1969 NASA launched 10 Apollo missions before they ever attempted to land one. Why? Because they needed to learn as much as they could first, people’s lives were at stake.
Business people read and test new theories all the time. We are always learning.
4 – Results Matter More
When I played baseball, I quickly learned that no matter how I did it, getting on base was the real goal. “A walk’s as good as a hit!”, my coach would call from the dugout as the umpire called out “Ball Four!” and I trotted down to first base. I soon led my team in walks, hit by pitch and runs scored. While walking isn’t nearly as fun or flashy as hitting a frozen rope over the head of the short stop, the result is the same.
Pick a result or set a goal and then do everything you can to achieve it. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work.
And remember, just because it’s hard doesn’t make something not worth doing. The hard… is what makes achieving things great.