Author Archives: Robert Jordan

The Top 10 Movies for Entrepreneurs

The Top 10 Movies for Entrepreneurs

Be sure to see Moneyball, the movie about Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane’s inspired rejiggering of major league baseball’s thinking about player recruitment and how to form a winning team. I couldn’t help but think that Beane, showed good entrepreneurial drive and it got me thinking of other inspiring movies for entrepreneurs. Here’s my list of the best movies of all time for you intrepid company builders.

  1. The Blues Brothers. Aside from sheer good humor, Blues Brothers has to be on every entrepreneur’s list because Jake and Elroy are on a mission from on high. And if you truly believe in your startup when everyone else thinks you’re nuts, you are on a mission and you have a purpose, regardless of what is inspiring you. The best companies and causes have big, inspiring missions.
  2. Apollo 13. Even though we know the outcome upfront, there is a scene in Apollo 13 so quintessentially entrepreneurial that it will gladden the heart of the steeliest company founder. When some of the oxygen tanks exploded on the command module, the CO2 recycling system failed and had to be repaired using spare parts and odds and ends – anything the astronauts could find. Back on planet earth in Houston a team of engineers dumped a box of items onto a big table to figure out how the astronauts could use the materials at hand in a cramped space capsule to repair the failing CO2 filter. Available items included a printed manual and duct tape. You want to talk about figuring out a solution in real time, on the fly, with only minutes of air left to breathe? See this movie and drill this scene into your head and into your team’s thinking. You and I don’t face limitations like that, not ever.
  3. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg’s Indiana Jones character is a classic entrepreneur, highly trained and yet also a bold explorer willing to take risks for huge gains. Lots of folks view entrepreneurs and wish they would have taken the same leap…but they didn’t. Instead they have a long list of excuses as to why, or why not. Here’s my prescription for you budding entrepreneur or established company veteran: listen to John Williams’ musical score for Raiders the next time you feel even a twinge of hesitation about anything.
  4. Twelve O’Clock High. Anyone who manages a staff has to see Twelve O’Clock High. Aside from the fact that it’s a great way to see Gregory Peck in a movie other than To Kill a Mockingbird, this is the best flick for learning: 1) how to manage people; 2) how to oversee other managers; and 3) how to stay on the sane side of the fine line separating highly stressful work from obsession/workaholic fixation leading to total breakdown. Yes, I know, I could have cited better war movies and leadership stories like Patton. But this is not a list of best war movies – it’s about self-generating entrepreneurship.
  5. Spartacus. I love CG effects and animation in movies like Avatar, Matrix, and Terminator. But there are some movies made before the world became so fast-twitch that we couldn’t stand five minutes of dialog before another earth-destroying end-of-days battle. Kirk Douglas in Spartacus is the personification of Margaret Mead’s line about a few individuals being able to change the world. If you think Spartacus’ example of leading a slave revolt against the Roman empire is no longer relevant, just think how much harder it was to be viral and to create a brand and message that would cause all your fellow slaves (er, sorry, cubicle dwellers) to join you – without benefit of tweets, email or status updates. When Crassus, the Roman senator, general and Forbes 400 billionaire of his day finally put down the slave rebellion, he crucified thousands of recaptured slaves along the Roman road. Lucky for us, modern entrepreneurial efforts are a lot easier, even if your pet project takes on the powers that be. Let me put it this way. If Sean Parker, founder of Napster, is a modern day version of Spartacus, Sean’s revolt was against the autocratic music industry, and he lost – Napster was shut down, end of story. But he wasn’t crucified, instead he went on to glory helping birth Facebook. So the modern world isn’t all bad, yes?
  6. Slumdog Millionaire. The Mumbai teen hero of Slumdog wins an opportunity to compete on the Indian TV version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He seizes the opportunity and despite arrest and torture, he pursues his dreams. Relentlessly! He wins the game, the money, and the girl. Being opportunistic is one of the key qualities of founders interviewed in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America. Curiosity fueled their passion and they pursued opportunity tirelessly.
  7. Casablanca. What endears Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, to everyone who’s ever watched this classic is the moment when Rick sacrifices himself for something bigger than his own pain, desires or needs. Despite the ache he feels from a lost love, he puts his rival’s noble cause first.  How does this apply to you? Because your company, your baby, your business that you’ve sacrificed for – it’s not about you. It really isn’t. I know, you are the founder. But the true measure of success for any business is the point when it becomes bigger than you, when it becomes self sustaining and when customers, vendors, managers and employees will also live and die for it.
  8. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Buck’s the classic entrepreneur. And if you look at his team, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, think about how powerful you could be if your startup team had that level of dedication. I am not sure if he was more adventurer, scientist, surgeon or rock musician, but it really doesn’t matter. Pursue your passions. Peter Weller was good playing Buck, but John Lithgow and Ellen Barkin steal the show.
  9. The World’s Fastest Indian. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of New Zealand motorcycle enthusiast Burt Munro should give hope and inspiration not just to rookie entrepreneurs, but to anyone who decides to launch something when they are 40. Or 50. Or 60. WFI documents Munro’s dream – tinkering with a 1920 Indian motorcycle, a bike that helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967 when Burt was 67 years old. 200 mph, no flame-retardant suit, not much between Burt and a lot of baked salt zipping by. Flat broke, sleeping in his car – this is a must-see for entrepreneurs.
  10. The Social Network. Yes, the movie is that good. Whether its 100% accurate or not – we are living in a Facebook world and you can thank Mark Zuckerberg for that.

So get cracking. I’ll throw in two bonus movies for good measure. See Lawrence of Arabia and finish up with The Adventures of Robin Hood. Peter O’Toole kills it in Lawrence – I mean if rounding up warring tribes to launch coordinated attacks on superior enemy forces isn’t entrepreneurial genius, what is? And then there’s Errol Flynn, the original Robin Hood. He takes on the Man (the evil Prince John), and he wins.

**Robert Jordan is a contributor. View the original posting of this article on

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What’s Your Titanium Story? Interview with Dane Miller, Founder, Biomet, Appearing at Great Lakes Entrep Bash on Nov. 17

What's Your Titanium Story?  Interview with Dane Miller, Founder, Biomet, Appearing at Great Lakes Entrep Bash on Nov. 17

When I interviewed the 45 founders featured in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America, I tried to total up the amount of value each had brought to the world. They all started from zero. I am not sure of the exact number for their company valuations, but I can tell you that on publication day the number one name on the list was Dane Miller. He had just taken Biomet private for about $12 billion.

Dane founded his company in tiny Warsaw, IN, where Biomet still continues to produce things like artificial hips and knees sold worldwide.

I’m thrilled that we were able to sit down with Dane and catch up. I had to ask him more about the amazing story about implanting titanium in his arm to prove a point. The world thought stainless steel was the safest material for the human body, but Dane knew better. So he tested it out on his own body, by having a surgeon friend implant a small piece of titanium in his arm.

Would you do that? How far will you go to prove yourself?

Dane left the titanium in his arm for ten years to prove the point. Today, thirty years later, what’s the material used worldwide by everyone in the industry? Titanium.

Watch this video where Dane briefly talks about titanium, how to keep good people, and how to keep humble.

Better yet – join us in Chicago on November 17 at the Great Lakes Entrepreneurial Bash to hear Dane and four other amazing entrepreneurs live and in person.

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2011 New York Entrepreneurial Bash Highlight Video

On October 3, 2011 top business leaders, executives, company owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs attended the New York Entrepreneurial Bash at the NYSE to celebrate outstanding entrepreneurship. Watch this two minute video with event highlights from five amazing company founders: Bonnie Baskin (AppTec Labs), Glen Tullman (co-founder, ECIN; now CEO, Allscripts (Nasdaq: MDRX)), Jim Dolan (The Dolan Company, NYSE: DM), Mark Tebbe (Lante Corp;, and Al Berning (co-founder, Pemstar; now CEO, Hardcore Computer).

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Managers: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Broadcast It

Managers: If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Broadcast It

A lot of how-to business books have high praise for, well, praise. But is there a place in your company, and mine, for some brutal—and very public—criticism?

Fair warning, you won’t find this technique in namby-pamby guides like The One Minute Manager, which recommends:Help people reach their full potential…catch them doing something right.” I’m not saying to give up on praise. And I’m definitely not recommending you try this at home. My wife and teenage daughters might have certain negative feedback for me. And that’s not public enough for this approach.

Some CEOs are sure that criticism is an under-appreciated educational tool. So are you robbing your employees of an opportunity to reach greater productivity by favoring the softer, more polite touch when it comes to feedback on a job not so well done?

What I learned from Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman is that public feedback is necessary and sometimes vital. Consider this specific tactic he shared with me: “When somebody does something wrong, you correct him or her individually and then one person learns that lesson. Or you can send an email to the whole company and the whole company learns that lesson.”

The advantage for both manager and employee, says Glen, is that “to survive in that environment, you have to develop a soft shell but a very hard core. You have to be able to take those hits…If you make it through, you’re unbelievably strong.”

Glen and his older brother Howard Tullman, both champion entrepreneurs interviewed in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America, had a leg up with blunt feedback from an early age. They both acknowledge growing up in a hyper-competitive house. As Glen said, “My mother always promoted high standards and was honest when you didn’t achieve them.”

I was brought up with the wuss style, praise in public and criticize in private, but I think Glen has a point. Better for all employees to learn from one mistake, he told me, rather than to wait for it to be repeated.

Worried about what your employees will think? Will it create an environment of fear? If the corporate culture embraces learning and truth seeking, then you get collective improvement. Another useful by-product of that approach, according to Glen, is skin thickening, if you will, that bodes well for future communication and survival in the competitive environment that lurks outside your company doors. Finally, the act of taking criticism and the expectation that you need to bounce back creates a resilient body of employees who can change course on a dime.

This idea has been adopted by other managers as well, most notably superstar CEO Andrew Grove. Intel uses an aggressive approach with a formal name: constructive confrontation. No holding back, whether you’re the CEO or a new rookie engineer. The approach was designed to motivate people to solve problems through highly assertive exchanges.

Would you—could you—do this as a manager? It’s definitely food for thought. Public criticism, if delivered in the spirit of creating greater good for all, may be a management tool that’s underused.

Glen Tullman shared his thoughts on management and entrepreneurship at the New York Entrepreneurial Bash on Oct. 3. Visit for more information.

**Robert Jordan is a contributor. View the original posting of this article on

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What’s Your Entrepreneurial DNA?

What’s Your Entrepreneurial DNA?

I just heard about something brilliant. It is a quick test for entrepreneurs. Not all of us are wired the same, but what does that mean for the type of business you should run, how you should run it and who’s on the team?

Joe Abraham spent three years developing BOSI based on answers from thousands of entrepreneurs. BOSI (Builder/Opportunist/Specialist/Innovator) segments entrepreneurs into four groups. The BOSI Assessment is a tool that lets you figure out your type, your  predisposed strengths, weaknesses and best practices.

Are you a Specialist, Builder, Opportunist or Innovator? The test is free. Email me your results and I’ll share mine with you. My thought is this could help me structure my team and figure out how better to partner with other company founders…

Click here to take the BOSI Assessment

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Steve Jobs and Immortal American Entrepreneurs

Steve Jobs and Immortal American Entrepreneurs

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday, October 6, 2011. He joins a small group of immortals – one of the greatest American entrepreneurs of all time. Here’s my list, and it is American because there’s never been another country and system that supported innovation and creativity like American capitalism. The list of immortals:

Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Edison
Henry Ford
Walt Disney
Steve Jobs

This is a focus on world-changing innovation. The creative genius that can conceive is wonderful and produces great works of art. Steve was able to not only create but accomplish revolutions in technology, design, media, music and commerce. He will be missed.


PDMA Product Innovation Management Annual Global Conference

PDMA Product Innovation Management Annual Global Conference

I recently attended a Thinkubator workshop and met some of the managers of PDMA, an organization that advocates for product development, management and innovation professionals. PDMA has a Product Innovation Management Annual Global Conference coming up October 29 – November 2 in Phoenix, AZ at the Arizona Biltmore. This is the only event for product development professionals designed by product development professionals. The speaker lineup looks great and includes:

Francis Gouillart, President & Co-Founder, Experience Co-Creation Partnership
Stephen Hoover, PhD, CEO, Palo Alto Research Center Incorporated
R. Gopalakrishnan, Director of Tata Sons

You can register at Enter discount code: MP11GC to receive 20% off registration.

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5 Days Till the New York Entrepreneurial Bash. Register Now.

5 Days Till the New York Entrepreneurial Bash. Register Now.

Join me and five of the founders featured in How They Did It at the NYSE on October 3rd for the New York Entrepreneurial Bash. This event is featured by Kauffman Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Week and is a celebration by and for entrepreneurs and business leaders.

I look forward to moderating this panel and want to thank these amazing founders who each started and grew companies to $100 million+ success:

Bonnie Baskin, Founder, AppTec Laboratory Services and ViroMed
Glen Tullman, Co-Founder, ECIN; CEO, Allscripts
Jim Dolan, Founder, The Dolan Company
Mark Tebbe, Founder, and Lante Corp
Al Berning, Founder, Pemstar; CEO, Hardcore Computer

Register at and use the discount code “HTDIWeb” to receive $15 off the listed ticket price.

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Women are Wired to be Better Entrepreneurs

Women are Wired to be Better Entrepreneurs

I recently interviewed HTDI founder, Bonnie Baskin, who will also be speaking at the New York Entrepreneurial Bash on Oct. 3. Bonnie gave a sneak peak at some great lessons for women everywhere who are launching or running companies:

-Hire Women, Especially Steel Magnolias
-Be Flexible with Employee Needs
-Design Your Company the Way YOU Want
-Good Service Triumphs
-Pay It Forward

Watch the video now below or read more about Bonnie’s advice in the Huffington Post article Women Are Wired to Be Better Entrepreneurs, Says Bonnie Baskin

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Success Requires a Team

Success Requires a Team

Thanks to Scott Keffer for sending me coach John Wooden’s book Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success. John Wooden, a paragon of basketball and admired well beyond the sports world, did an outstanding job combining a kid’s book with an instruction set for adults. The book is based on John’s pyramid of success and is a great reminder of an exceptional approach toward life.

One block in his pyramid that I think is often key to a successful entrepreneurial venture is the element of team spirit.  John says “The team comes first… the team’s the star.”

The problem with so many solo professionals is that they think they have to do it alone because no one else would be a fit working with them at their high level or they’re just too busy taking care of clients to figure out how to form a team. But if you take a lesson from champions, team is one of your greatest assets.

Al Berning and Mark Tebbe, two entrepreneurs who shared their stories in my book, How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America know the importance of a team all too well.

Al’s inspiration for his company Pemstar came when his former employer, IBM, decided to move disk drive operations to Asia in a major restructuring. Al was not in the market to go to Asia so he and 6 other senior managers started looking at ways they could keep the team intact and pursue new opportunities.

The team actually mapped out their individual skillsets and concluded that together they could create a new company that focused on outsourced design and manufacturing services. Al’s decision to combine forces ultimately led to landing their former employer IBM as one of the new company’s first three customers.

Al had the vision to see his greatest asset was the brainpower of his team. He recognized that asset and went on to grow Pemstar to an IPO, then later selling the company to Benchmark for $300 million.

Another one of Coach Wooden’s steps came into play here as well — the elements of hard work and preparation. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” Wooden says.  Al and his partners prepared for entrepreneurial success by identifying specific areas where their business could provide a competitive advantage, and sticking to just that.

Mark Tebbe, founder of Lante Corporation and also credits his success to having a good team. Seeing promise in microcomputers, Mark quit his first job at Arthur Andersen & Co. to pursue this new territory. He was young, and valued experience, so partnered up with a 38-year-old named Andy Langer. The two created the consulting practice Langer, Tebbe and Associates, which eventually became Lante.

Mark said Andy Langer was the perfect partner for his younger self. He would always consider not just what happened but why it had happened. “Don’t underestimate the value of experience,” Tebbe says.

I realize we’re all savvy and would never consider reading a children’s book to get inspiration. Make an exception for Coach Wooden, and after you finish reading it pass it along to a youngster in your life.

(Hear from Al Berning and Mark Tebbe who are featured speakers at the upcoming New York Entrepreneurial Bash at the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 3. Register at

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