Life Changing Conversations for Entrepreneurs

Now This is The Way to do a Book Tour

This past Friday, September 3rd, I had the opportunity to hear Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo’s, speak at EO Chicago’s Learning Event. Tony has been traveling the country on a tour bus with a dozen Zappo’s acolytes in support of his first book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

This is one smart dude. What most impressed me is that he appears to walk the talk. Zappo’s recruits employees not only for competence and skills but equally for fit with culture and personality. He said that either upfront or after a person’s on board, if their skills were superior but personality was difficult, they’d be given the boot. And this is the same company that has famously had a $2,000 cash offer for trainees to leave following their training.

Now if they would just add a tour of the bus, that would’ve been even better.

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Michael Polsky Scores Big

Congratulations to Michael Polsky, founder of Invenergy Wind and featured company champion in How They Did It.

The news just came out: Detroit Energy, the utility subsidiary of DTE Energy Company (DTE) got regulatory approval for a 20-year renewable energy purchase contract. The Michigan Public Service Commission (“MPSC”) gave approval for the company to purchase 200 megawatts (MW) of wind energy from Invenergy Wind.

The project plans to use 125 wind turbines, installed across 30,000 acres, generating enough power to supply nearly 54,000 homes with renewable electricity. Using 1.6MW turbines supplied by GE, the facility is expected to begin operations in late 2011.

When we interviewed Michael for the book, he told me that “if you want to grow, you always stay ahead of your means.” With his level of drive, I surmise that this news is both a conclusion from a big bet and a new chapter for the company. He’s a rare individual in a utility-oriented industry who still owns most of the company and can finance and land a $1.1 billion deal.

Well done Michael.

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Jim Camp, America’s #1 Negotiation Coach to Host Webinar Sept. 16

I had the good fortune to meet Jim Camp years ago at the annual Inc. 500 conference.  I saw one of the seminars listed in the attendee program – just one word – Negotiation. I figured, what the heck – even though I thought I knew everything there was to know about negotiating, maybe it would be interesting. But I didn’t hold out much hope, after all, my ability to be persuasive had got me pretty far – so far.  Then I heard Jim talk – and question about 100 of us in the audience – for just one hour, mind you. And that hour literally changed my life, my entire view of how I perceived business and specifically and practically how I decided to negotiate in all aspects of my life.

With the benefit of hindsight I can now see scores of deals we successfully completed over the past 10+ years, that would not have been possible without Jim Camp’s coaching. He presents a whole new way of thinking. People are so used to hearing about win-win that they have lost sight of everything but the urgent need to compromise, and cut price, and just get along in any way possible. If you are ready to get out of those traps, listen in and feel free to challenge Jim with your questions, thoughts and dilemmas in real time.

Jim Camp, the best-selling author of Start With No, will be speaking on this webinar on September 16 hosted by interimCEOinterimCFO, the worldwide network of interim, contract, and project executives. Jim will show you a way to play a much more sophisticated game than you ever thought possible. I guarantee it will be well worth an hour of your time to attend.

Date: September 16, 2010

Time: 10am Central Time

Sign up at (visit the upcoming events page)

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Phil Soran and Compellent in the News

Its not surprising, given all of the media attention in the bidding war between HP and Dell over 3Par, that interest would heat up in Compellent. Phil Soran is a two-time home run hitter, starting with Xiotech, which he and his partners Larry Aszmann and John Guider grew and eventually sold to Seagate.  Not many entrepreneurs can duplicate phenomenal results. After a $425 million exit to Seagate, Phil and company launch Compellent and took it public at just the right time on the NYSE.

I hope he has the chance to keep growing Compellent – while entrepreneurs always and usually seek great exits, Phil and team are more like watching Steve Jobs, and nobody wants to see Steve Jobs turn in the keys and go home. We want to keep on being dazzled.

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Glen Tullman on CNBC

Congrats to Glen Tullman and team from Allscripts. They rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq a couple days ago. The event marked the completion of Allscripts merger with Eclipsys. Following the opening Bell, Glen was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box. If we didn’t have a HTDI Portfolio tracking public companies mentioned in How They Did It, well, I would still buy MDRX.

Glen is simply a superb CEO and he represents a perfect matching of skills and competence to the company and job at hand at Allscripts (MDRX). I was sold after interviewing Glen.

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Rich Meeusen Helping Solve the World’s Water Supply Shortage

While I was working on How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America, I was asked, why focus on entrepreneurs and why the heartland?

Entrepreneurs are the engine that fuels the world’s progress. Progress does not come from bureaucracy. I wanted to learn from the 45 founders I interviewed and present their advice, insights, and inspiration in their own words, because great ideas and great effort never stop – regardless of economic conditions.

After speaking with the founders, is was clear that some of the most remarkable companies now in existence were launched and grown in the American heartland.

And the need for great entrepreneurs has not diminished. Take the issue of the world’s supply of potable water, for example. Research shows the existing water supply is insufficient to quench the thirst of the current population of the planet. According to The Netherlands’ recent 2030 Project, the world’s supply of potable water is 4.3 trillion cubic meters (TCM), whereas the world’s need at present is 4.5 TCM. Due to this shortage, five million children die every year. By 2030, the world’s need will total 6.9 TCM yet the supply will still be 4.3 TCM. Entrepreneurs, I predict, are going to solve this problem. And there is one location worldwide that has a clear lead, supply of talent, and expertise in water technology. Where is it—Palo Alto? London? Boston? Moscow?

According to Rich Meeusen, chairman and CEO of public company Badger Meter, Inc. (BMI), and co-founder of the Water Council, the answer is Milwaukee. Born from a 100-year history of industry on the Great Lakes, manufacturing in Milwaukee revolved around “wet” industries like tanning and breweries. Of the 11 largest water-related manufacturing companies in the world, five are headquartered or have significant presence in Milwaukee. More than 100 of the leading water technology companies are located in Milwaukee, working on all aspects of quality, desalination, access and use.

The world isn’t making any more water – what we have is what we have. Big issues like these can only be solved through creative new technologies, ideas and processes. Companies being launched and grown right now are our best hope to solve these challenges.

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“The next big thing will not be invented here”

Intel CEO Paul Otellini warns “the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here.” His comments were made at the Technology Policy Institute’s Aspen Forum, and he says this is based on the US legal environment being hostile to business.

CNET’s story also cites Bill Gates’ speech in 2005 decrying curbs on immigration and guest workers that would provide a boost to research institutions in China and India.

What do you think?

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Steven Berglas Says Purpose is the Secret to Serial Entrepreneurship

I recently read the Forbes article “Why Serial Entrepreneurs Can’t Stop”, by Steven Berglas.  Berglas points out that many entrepreneurs become less likely to take risks once they move out of the startup years because of fear that they will lose what they built.  However, he points out that the “rare breed” of serial entrepreneurs seem to grow bolder with each venture (whether a success or failure).   The secret?  Purpose.

Berglas says that while money may be part of it, above all, the serial entrepreneur wants to change the world.   In good times and bad, they stay relatively calm.  Why? It’s not about a single victory. “Changing the world is a quest. And that work is never done.”

I found many of the founders interviewed to for How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America to be serial entrepreneurs.  Mahendra Vora, for example, has started 18 companies all around IT and IT services. Howard Tullman has started or co-founded at least a dozen. Scott Jones and David Becker are up there as well. All mission-driven people.

Who do you know who’s most prolific, most mission-driven?

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Tom Figel on Managing PR in a Crisis: Podcast

Thanks to PR pro Tom Figel, managing partner at Lake Effect Communications, who provided good coaching for leaders on this podcast.

Tom describes three kinds of crises that can hit any public or private company, big or small:

(1) outside disasters, like the BP oil spill;

(2) internal errors within an organization, where they have no intent to change; and

(3) internal errors that are acknowledged, where change is intended and executed.

I was prompted to interview Tom after reading a great article from the New York Times called “In Case of Emergency What Not to Do” on August 22, 2010. NYT cited the YouGov BrandIndex, which measures six components of brand health:

  • Impression

Is your general impression of the brand positive or negative?

  • Quality

Does the brand represent good quality or poor?

  • Value

Does the brand represent a good value for the money, or a poor one?

  • Reputation

Would you be proud to work for this brand, or embarrassed?

  • Satisfaction

Are you a satisfied customer of this brand, or dissatisfied?

  • Recommend

Would you recommend this brand to a friend?

All reasons for entrepreneurs to be prepared BEFORE a crisis hits.

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8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business – Don Rainey

Check out the great article from Venture Beat called “8 things I wish I knew before starting a business”.  Don Rainey, general partner at Grotech Ventures says there are many experiences that, though he learned lessons from, he wishes he knew from the get go.

1. Things take longer than you ever imagine –

2. Items that do succeed tend to do so quickly

3. People will let you down

4. Good employees are really hard to find

5. Your bad employees rarely quit –

6. You will be lucky and unlucky –

7. Avoid the myth and misery of sunk cost –

8. Fill the pipe, always fill the pipe –

4 and 5 remind me of Howard Tullman talking about hiring. He had lots of pithy insights – here’s one that will be featured in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America (now available for pre-order on Amazon).

“I used to fall in love with everyone I interviewed and I’d say, ‘We can make anybody successful’ or ‘We can find a job for any talented person.’ And that’s just completely wrong and a really bad idea.”

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