Life Changing Conversations for Entrepreneurs

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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Inspiring Women Worldwide: Britain’s Diana Lamplugh

Inspiring Women Worldwide: Britain's Diana Lamplugh

I first met Diana Lamplugh back in college while working as an intern for a Member of Parliament in Great Britain. On arrival in London our group of 30 American undergrads each had to choose a family to live with. The staff member helping us had a 3-ring binder that listed each family on a separate page with details such as whether the family had pets. It looked like a totally random process, so as she leafed through pages I looked over her shoulder to see what might catch my eye. And I spotted a handwritten note on one page that read, “We have a summer home on the coast of Wales and our students are welcome to use it.” So I slapped my hand down on that page and said, “I’ll stay there.”

I lived with the Lamplugh family in southeast London and took an occasional wonderful trip to Wales.  The Lamplughs were typical on the outside – mom, dad, four kids, two dogs, two cats. I soon learned that the mom, Diana, was anything but typical. She was a dynamo. A charismatic, insightful, charming person who could get to the core of an issue or a person in no time flat.

My first morning in the Lamplugh house started as per usual for me – I took a shower. But when I came out of the bathroom to go back to my room I found 20 British women in leotards all staring up at me from the bottom of the staircase (at least I had a towel on). That’s how I discovered that Diana led exercise classes at home; was author of a best-selling book called Slimnastics; and had launched a national fitness movement that was popular all over Britain.

For most entrepreneurs those kind of credentials are all they will ever achieve. Not Diana. She was to be tested much more thoroughly by life.

Years passed and occasionally I’d go to London, each time visiting Diana and Paul. On one visit we landed at Heathrow and I called Diana. She picked up the phone and as soon as she heard my voice she asked, “Did you see me on the BBC?” I had no idea what she was talking about. She went on, “Suzy’s gone missing, and we were interviewed by the BBC.” Thus I heard for the first time about what was to become a long odyssey for the Lamplugh family. Eldest daughter Suzy Lamplugh, a real estate agent, had gone missing, presumed murdered. Scotland Yard conducted a massive search, reportedly the biggest search ever, eventually dredging the Thames to find a clue.

Suzy Lamplugh

Suzy has never been found  and a killer never convicted; the police have named a man who they strongly suspect killed her, a man in prison for another murder, but they do not have sufficient evidence actually to secure a conviction. But Diana and Paul refused to cower, and never broke down in front of a camera. Instead they formed The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the National Charity for Personal Safety, with the mission of helping everyone to combat aggression and violence, living full but safer lives.  I write this now from a distance of 25 years from the Trust’s formation and while the Trust is alive and very active, Diana is gone, having recently died.

I don’t know if I have Diana’s guts, her spirit, her resolve to do something proactive in the face of pure evil. She pressed on anyway. Especially for women who tend to get more messages from the world to just get along – take a page out of Diana Lamplugh’s positive attitude to life. Press on.

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From Jason Fried of 37Signals: Avoid These Four Letter Words!

From Jason Fried of 37Signals: Avoid These Four Letter Words!

Jason Fried’s book Rework has a great riff on four letter words you shouldn’t use. We entrepreneurs have to be careful with our language because our enthusiasm sometimes carries us away with our passions.  Here’s Jason’s list:


Jason thinks these words get in the way of good communication, and he has a point. These are words that create a black and white situation, when in fact things are usually shades of gray. In the end, these extremes cause tension, problems, and conflict. Here’s his specific take:

Need. Very few things need to get done. Negotiation coach and author Jim Camp distinguishes between need and want this way: we need oxygen. But that deal you are working on? You want it, you don’t need it. Try asking a question instead of making a needy demand. “What do you think about this?” or “How does this sound?”

Can’t. I love what Jason wrote: “when you say can’t you probably can. Sometimes there are even opposing can’ts. We can’t launch it like that because it’s not quite right, vs. we can’t spend any more time on this because we have to launch. Both of those statement can’t be true. Or wait a minute, can they?”

Easy. It’s always easy for the other guy. For us, well, maybe its easy but no one’s going to say that. Jason writes: “For you its ‘let me look into it’ but for others it’s ‘get it done.’”

Got any pet words you hate? Love to hear ‘em, especially not the common ones like always and never…


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World Record Holder Gerald “Solutionman” Haman Takes Over the World: Video Interview

World Record Holder Gerald “Solutionman” Haman Takes Over the World: Video Interview

My good friend Gerald “Solutionman” Haman of recently sat down with me at the Thinkubator here in Chicago to share how he is taking over the world one brainstorming session at a time. I don’t know anyone who can say that they are:

(1)    The world record holder for leading the biggest brainstorming session. Gerald brought together 8,000 great minds in a Singapore stadium, generating 454,000 ideas in one hour.

(2)    The 7th Most connected person on LinkedIn with over 30,000 contacts.

(3)    Got stuck in an airport for two days and put up a sign for “free ideas”, holding mini 5-15 minute brainstorming sessions with a line of people.

Gerald is fascinating and I think that there is something to learn from his many experiences. Take a look.

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Rookie Entrepreneurs: Learn How to Change Gears Fast, Get Publicity Super Fast

Rookie Entrepreneurs: Learn How to Change Gears Fast, Get Publicity Super Fast

One of the things I found most fascinating from the champion entrepreneurs I interviewed for How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America was their ability to seize on Plan B, that is, to realize when their initial idea wasn’t a home run, and to focus on a better idea. Scott Jones, inventor of voice mail as we know it – now used by billions of people all over the world — was faced with this choice when he decided to kill a good business that didn’t have the potential for a home run. He went for the huge home run and he won.

In this podcast I interviewed new entrepreneur Limor Elkayam and we talked about her first company,, a news aggregator. When didn’t get traction she thought up the idea to create a daily deal aggregator to help make money, called Limor quickly realized that the second idea was the winner. Dealery is kind of like Groupon or Living Social, but doesn’t employ sales folks to sell to local merchants. Instead it picks up deals from a bunch of different deal sites and rebroadcasts them, earning a commission on each sale.

Not only did Dealery feel like a stronger concept to Limor, but validation wasn’t long in coming. She launched and started getting publicity within 30 minutes of flipping the switch “on” for her site. How did that happen? By cultivating the same journalists who’d ignored her the first time around! Limor said Spotery publicity “was like pulling teeth” but the same bloggers and journalists who ignored the first company readily picked up and reported on Dealery, including the New York Times and USA Today. Rookie Limor learned two great things:

First: get ready to turn on a dime. Defend your first idea, but not to the death. If things aren’t working, get ready to shift, move, change gears when you see the better idea.

Second: be upfront with your new idea. Just because you got rejected the first time doesn’t mean you won’t be embraced – quickly! – the second time around.


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Join a Mastermind Group. Or Start One!

Join a Mastermind Group. Or Start One!

What does it take to launch and grow a winning company? Everyone wants the secret sauce (including me). That’s why I interviewed 45 champions who created $41 billion (now up to $63 billion) in value from scratch and then presented their insights in How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights from the Heart of America.

There is in fact at least one thing that I have 100% certainty will help you if you are committed and serious about your goals, integrity and desire to succeed. I truly believe that if you form or join a mastermind group, you significantly increase your chances for success. No matter what industry or profession, a mastermind group can be a vital element in your life and work.

Is a mastermind group the same thing as the now ubiquitous networking group, found in abundance all over the planet? No. A mastermind group consists of two or more individuals who come together in a positive and constructive spirit with the goal of assisting in each other’s development. It is not about making referrals. The greatest personal improvement writer of the modern age, Napoleon Hill, rediscovered this truth in his seminal work, Think and Grow Rich. He determined that the presence of a mastermind group was of vital importance for the business titans he interviewed, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie and 500 other global leaders in the early 1900s.

A mastermind group comes together in a spirit of harmony, and in that spirit forms something called a mastermind consciousness. And I’ll bet that if you’ve had any degree of success in any endeavor thus far, you will find that you already are a part of a mastermind group. Are you happily married or in a committed relationship? You have a mastermind group. When people come together for mutual benefit, something larger emerges for the good of the relationship, not just for the specific benefit of either partner. Do you have a true buddy who always looks out for your best interest, and you for theirs? You have a mastermind group.

In a business context, a mastermind group consists of no more than 6 or 8 professionals, who meet regularly to present their goals and report on their progress. Each member is held accountable by the group. Accountability is key!

I joined my mastermind group when it was already up and running, thanks to a remarkable person named Dean Klassman. That was 11 years ago, and we’ve been meeting in person or on a conference call once a week ever since. I asked Dean and my other mastermind partners permission and conducted short, mini video interviews so you could get a feel for what I’m talking about. See what you think, and if you have your own mastermind group I’d love to hear about it! And if you send us a short video of your group, I will send each member of your group an autographed copy of How They Did It! Email bob at with your story and/or video and we’ll send something guaranteed to thrill your group and make you a hero.

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Mark Haines, of CNBC Squawk Box fame, RIP: “Rule One is Don’t Lie”

Mark Haines, of CNBC Squawk Box fame, RIP: "Rule One is Don't Lie"

I was sorry to hear of Mark Haine’s passing. He was a comfortable presence in the morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box, but more to the point, he came across as being trustworthy. He was a bit cranky at times, funny, irreverent, always upfront and real. Most importantly he treated the wide variety of leaders he interviewed with equanimity. He was not awed by anyone or any title.

Mark Haines

WSJ recalled a 2001 interview with Mr. Haines in Investor Relations Business Magazine where he said, “Rule one is don’t lie. If you do, I’ll kill you.” It was clear Haines lived by this rule in his 1998 interview with Eastman Kodak’s CEO George Fisher. In the interview Fisher denied rumors of an impending price war, yet days later Kodak launched a discount campaign. Mr. Haines then repeatedly ran parts of the interview on subsequent shows also adding in comments about Fisher’s honesty, or lack of it.

We talk a lot about acting with integrity — that it pays off for leaders not just in the long run, but right now as well. I suspect some entrepreneurs and small business owners think that the standards and scrutiny that big companies and public companies are subject to, does not really apply to them. Who’s going to notice? Maybe they figure they’ll shape up when things get better, when the business is bigger or can afford to have better standards, or when there are more employees and someone’s bound to see the boss’ shortcuts.

This plays out in every industry, every country. Look at Interactive Brokers Group decision to curtail trading in 130 Chinese stocks. Why did they decide to cut margin trading out? Because so many Chinese companies have had accounting “irregularities” that it just didn’t make sense to take risk on companies that were, well, lying.

Another one of my favorite characters who just pled guilty to stock manipulation charges is Barry Minkow. I remember sitting in a big ballroom at the annual Young Entrepreneur Organization’s national celebration years ago. Barry headed up ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning, a national publicly traded company that was on a tear, growing faster than you could believe. Barry won the top prize as entrepreneur of the year, and he delivered an impassioned, over the top speech. He was the definition of “my way or the highway” kind of guy. It turned out later, the entire ZZZZ Best growth story was a sham — an accounting fraud — and Barry went to jail. When he got out he had supposedly mended his ways, but now he’s back in the public eye, and not for good reason.

The reality is that anyone in business, anyone attempting to do something big – just may succeed. And that means your 15 minutes of fame is very close at hand. You may be just one more action, one more decision to go, from seeing your efforts pay off. And when that happens, a great journalist like Mark Haines is going to ask you, “so! How’d you do it? How did you hit that home run in business?”

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