KEEPING IT REAL with our Summer Interns at #tech2000 and #appnetic

T2KInterns2015

I had the privilege of having lunch with our Tech 2000 and appnetic summer interns yesterday. I’m pictured above with them and one of my Partners, George Churchwell, Co-Founder and President of Tech 2000.  This crop of 7 of the best and brightest students from MIT, Georgetown, Emory, UVA, UNC, and Virginia Tech give me a high degree of confidence in the future leaders and entrepreneurs of America! They are smart, confident, talented, ambitious, and want to make an impact in the world.

We had a terrific discussion about entrepreneurship, innovation, startups, business, and management.  They are each excited about learning new skills and garnering some good business experience.  They came to the right place and we are very grateful to have them this summer (We selected these 7 out of over 150 applications; special thanks to our awesome Head of Talent, Jackie Churchwell!).

Inevitably the conversation turned to advice, on both business and life. So I divided my thoughts into 2 lists: “Winning Advice” and “What I Wish I Knew at Your Age,” the latter of which is one of my favorite slides when I speak to students at some of our local business schools.

WINNING ADVICE FOR OUR INTERNS

Integrity is #1 – this is about you and your reputation. Do the right thing and keep your promises, be honest and transparent.

Find your Passion – it’s ok if you don’t know it yet. I know 50-year olds who haven’t yet found theirs. Experiment, try new things. You will find your passion or it will come to you.

Always give 100% – work hard, be proactive, bring your “A” game, and be prepared

Learn how to sell – the most underrated yet important skill you will ever have is knowing HOW TO SELL. Understanding your customer’s motivations and buying patterns is critical to business and life.  Life is about selling and persuading, and your “customers” include friends, family, bosses, etc.

Have Fun! Life is short. If you’re not having fun, then you’re wasting your time. Move on until you find something you truly enjoy.

“WHAT I WISH I KNEW AT YOUR AGE”

Everything is hard! Everything takes longer and costs more than you expect. If you go into any endeavor knowing this fact, you will have more reasonable expectations and not get so discouraged when you have a few setbacks.

Nothing comes without Hard Work and LUCK – you need Luck, and eventually it will find you. The harder you work, the more prepared you are and the “luckier” you will get.

When building a startup, there’s no such thing as “Work/Life Balance.”  It’s “Work/Work Balance.” Once you find your passion, life and work converge and become one. I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs who have not put in huge hours and sacrifice.

Work with great partners, advisors and people. The key word here is great. Great people can achieve multiples of what mediocre people can do.

Don’t waste your time with liars, posers, and cheats. Eventually, they will bring you down. You will be known and judged by the company you keep.

Trust YOUR gut, it’s usually right. You know more about yourself than you realize.

Money is overrated and Contentment is underrated. Enough said.

Please let me know what YOU would add to these 2 lists.  Thanks for reading and subscribing!

Magic Johnson – WINNING on the Court and in the Boardroom

Magic Johnson 1

Seeing Magic Johnson speak was one of the highlights of my week in Nashville at the SiriusDecisions 2015 Summit a few weeks ago.

He was funny, engaging, and inspiring, and also had some sound business wisdom for the crowd of 3000 or so sales and marketing executives in attendance. Everyone knows Magic Johnson as one of the all-time NBA greats, but his business resume would seem to qualify him also as one of America’s top entrepreneurs.

He’s a true Unicorn, a rare individual who has reached the pinnacle in sport as well as in business. He spoke about how he made the transition, and how he started winning in business.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, which reportedly has a net worth of $700 million

Part owner of the LA Dodgers, Major League Baseball team

Former minority owner of the LA Lakers, National Basketball Association team

Owner of Magic Theaters

Partner in the $500 million Yucaipa/Magic private equity fund

First franchisee of Starbucks ever, built a chain of 125 stores in urban locations, sold the chain back to Starbucks corporate

Co-owner of the Dayton Dragons (minor league baseball) and the LA Sparks (WNBA)

Founder, Magic Johnson Foundation

MAGIC’S KEYS TO WINNING

  1. Play to win, and work with Winners
  1. Know your customer – an example he cited was his knowledge of the “Urban customer”, and how he replacing scones w sweet potato pie at Starbucks, and adding more flavored drinks to the menu in order to cater to his customers
  1. Over-deliver – “the key to business success and the key to retention”
  1. Work with great partners
  1. Sell at the right time – Johnson sold his stake in Starbucks and the L.A. Lakers NBA team as valuations started to rise.

OTHER INTERESTING FACTS AND THOUGHTS

He does an annual SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of all of his companies AND himself.

Magic’s All Time starting 5 lineup – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan and himself.

His number one, top rival on the court: Larry Bird

Mentors – Magic has a network of 20+ CEOs who mentor him. He built this network after retirement from basketball by obtaining a list of the Lakers’ VIP season ticket holders and cold calling them one by one.

His biggest failure – Magic 32 sporting goods stores, which failed after only one year.

Magic, on the handful of traits which makes him a success in business (he said he brought these skills he learned as an athlete to his business ventures) – desire to WIN, perfectionism, preparation, focus, discipline, professionalism, and his ability to motivate his team and those around him to reach their full potential.

I’ve never met Magic Johnson, nor have I seen him speak at this length, but here are my main impressions of him, garnered from his 50 minute talk:

Burning desire to WIN. He hates to lose – “underperforming is not winning the Championship

Supremely confident – he KNOWS he’s going to win

His “game plan” is simple. He sticks to the basics (customer focus, over-delivering, good teams, good partners, etc.)

Coachable (he spoke extensively about soliciting and absorbing good advice from his network of 20 CEO “coaches”)

Magic Johnson 2

It was quite inspiring and refreshing to hear from an entertaining, motivational speaker who backs up his thoughts with relevant stories and sound business advice. Always a fan of him as a basketball player, I am now a fan of Magic Johnson as an entrepreneur.

Winning Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs – Part 1

photo

I have had the good fortune of being invited frequently to speak to groups of students (Undergrads and MBAs), and at various trade and industry forums throughout the USA, and even throughout China and in Dubai.  I always end my talks with a slide entitled Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.

It’s my small way of evangelizing entrepreneurship and giving a nudge to those who are trying to muster the courage to start their own businesses.  The slide contains 9 bullets of advice.  Here are the first 5:

Integrity – What do you have if you don’t have integrity?  Say what you do and do what you say.  Do the right thing.  Integrity is the basis of trust which is the basis of all relationships, business and otherwise.  It can’t be faked. And, at the end of the day, you want to be able to sleep soundly at night.  Everyone wants to work with high integrity people, so always operate with the highest degree of integrity.

Do It Now – So many aspiring entrepreneurs are waiting for the exact “right moment” to start their business.  Well, I’ve got news for you.  The “right moment” is NOW.  Why wait? When you think about it, the worst thing that can happen is you fail, and you go back and get a job.  But the learnings you will have amassed are priceless.  With the economy and markets flat these days, a resourceful entrepreneur with a great idea and execution capability can be very successful.  Competitors and established players are in disarray and “playing defense.”  They are cutting costs, and trying to figure out their next pivot while you can start with a blank slate and make a market.  Go for it!

Great People – You can’t win without having a great team around you.  That goes for business, as well as sports, war, etc.  Surround yourself with the very best talent you can recruit for your crusade.  Great people are worth multiples of what you pay them, so take your time and find excellent associates who know how to deliver and who share your passion and values.

Focus on Your Customer – Too many entrepreneurs get enamored with their product or invention, or processes and trivia which have little impact on their startup.  Not to pick on them, but I see this with a lot of engineers and techie entrepreneurs. You may have the best product, the coolest logo, and the most high powered investors and advisors, BUT without a customer, you do not have a business.  The most important thing entrepreneurs need to focus on is their customers, who they are, what they want or need, and how you can help them.  Thrill them and you will be successful.  This needs to be your #1 focus at the beginning, and throughout the life of your company.

Be Flexible – Business plans are awesome.  I have seen many dozens of good ones.  I am a big proponent of planning, because the very act of planning helps you and your team think through challenges and scenarios, etc. and you learn tons through the process. But one thing is certain:  nothing ever turns out as planned.  Because of this, an entrepreneur needs to be flexible.  This could mean changing your solution, modifying your product, selling into a different market segment, etc.  The alternative, being inflexible, could be deadly to a startup.

Thanks very much for reading.  What do you think?  I’d love your feedback and thoughts, so please Comment below…and please sign up for my Blog too!  (See the Signup box on the sidebar of my Home Page)

Featured image courtesy of dierken licensed via creative commons.