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Guts and Glory

I wrote about a comment I saw on ExecuNet from a gentleman who didn’t have much good to say about the current generation of executives. He specifically commented on lack of guts and courage in the corporate world, and I thought he had a point.

I had to stop and think about guts in the modern world. There are examples that come to mind – Lee Iaccoca taking charge at Chrysler – his leadership was heroic.

But nearer to hand I thought about a company I had the privilege to take part in. PV Powered in Bend, Oregon, was an early stage company losing tons of cash throughout the recession. The company had great technology but was not yet far enough along to have landed enough customers to reach breakeven or even close to it. In desperation the company sought to sell itself.  At the time, Bear Stearns had gone under. Lehman went under and it looked like the US banking system was at risk. Definitely not a time when investors put money into high risk, illiquid assets.

Like so many tech companies, PVP needed cash, and looked to its large investor group.  But everyone said no – except for a father and son investing team that owned a construction company in Washington.

You might think, well, no big deal, someone wrote a check for millions despite the recession. But that wasn’t the full story. The company had already attempted to sell itself, but each time a buyer appeared, they eventually left. And the last potential buyer had not only backed away, but specifically labeled all the deficiencies at the company, all the reasons it just wasn’t worth buying at all.

With that less-than-glowing endorsement, the father and son, Dan and Mason Evans of JH Kelly, decided to keep writing checks throughout the recession and to retain the management team. Luckily, things improved dramatically over the ensuing four quarters and a new offer came in, culminating in a $90 million sale of the company earlier this year.

The decision by Dan and Mason Evans and their EVP Mark Fleischauer is the exact definition of guts, of moving forward despite uncertainty and fear in the marketplace.

Now let’s talk about you. How do you keep moving forward when everyone else is running in the opposite direction?

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The Latest in ADD: ADOS

David Zach

I just heard a great new acronym for the rampant attention deficit issue we all know and love. This was relayed to me from futurist and speaker David Zach:

ADOS: Attention Deficit…Ooh Shiny!

Later I heard author Sally Hogshead, creator of the Fascinate Test, say that the average person’s attention span has plummeted from 20 minutes to 9 seconds…or roughly to that of a goldfish. Which means …Ooh Shiny!

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Your Favorite Entrepreneur Cartoon?

Here’s mine, thanks to the brilliant cartoonist Jeff Wiley.

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How to get Ready Now to Win in 2011: Podcast with Coach Jim Rohrbach

Jim Rohrbach

Take a listen to this podcast with Jim Rohrbach, coach to successful company owners (www.SuccessSkills.com), as he talks about the key thing you need to do right now to be ready with your plan in place for 2011. This all has to do with the biggest lesson coming out of Napoleon Hill’s classic Think & Grow Rich, putting your chief aim and mission in place right now.

Jim also talks about the importance of finding a mastermind partner or developing a mastermind group to help keep you on track, and to share your wisdom and energy with others.

Jim also posted a great article here Why You Need to Read Think and Grow Rich and there’s a free tool for writing your mission statement on the website.

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At Least They Are Passionate About Budgets

Don’t you kind of wish American politicians would get this passionate about the budget and massive deficits? Give it to members of South Korea’s Grand National Party and opposing Democratic Party for caring deeply (ok, a little too deeply) about their budget. That’s the thing about entrepreneurs: we have to live within a budget.

Seoul, South Korea

Photo Associated Press. In Seoul, South Korea, clashing over a budget bill in front of the National Assembly

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“My Father is Li Gang!”

This has become a rallying cry in China against censorship; it’s also a bitter joke about avoiding responsibility. It comes in the aftermath of a tragedy as reported in NYT. A drunk driver was speeding along and struck some bicyclists head on, killing a woman named Chen Xiaofeng. The driver attempted to get away, saying “my father is Li Gang!” The accused son’s father, Li Gang, is deputy police chief. Chinese censors quickly suppressed news of her death, but it’s the age of the Internet and news leaked out. So now most Chinese know, but the government continues to censor commentary. It is an ugly reminder of economic opportunity without political freedom…

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Founders Share Advice at Entrepreneur Bash

Seven founders featured in How They Did It gave great advice at the Great Lakes Entrepreneur Bash on November 16th in Chicago. Take a look at these videos from the panel that included:

Bill DeVille, Health Personnel Options, Ohio
Jim Dolan, The Dolan Company, Minnesota
Tim Krauskopf, Spyglass, Illinois
Vince Pettinelli, PeopleServe, Ohio
Chris Moffitt, Rubicon Technology, Illinois
Michael Polsky, SkyGen, Illinois
Mark Tebbe, Lante Corporation, Illinois

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Win 2 Signed Copies of How They Did It

Here’s your chance to win 2 holiday gifts: signed copies of How They Did It – one for you and one for an entrepreneur friend.

On December 17 we will be announcing 10 winners who will each receive 2 copies of How They Did It. To enter, all you have to do is tell us:

–          Why should we send you a copy?

–          How will your friend be inspired?

We look forward to reading your thoughts and comments* and sharing inspiration with you this holiday season!

* Submissions must be received by 6pm cst on December 15. Post here or email erin@howtheydiditbook.com. Winners will be announced at 12pm cst on December 17.

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Off With His Head

There’s a great anecdote in Matt Ridley’s wonderful book, The Rational Optimist. Matt tells the story, passed down through the centuries by written accounts at the time, of when the Roman emperor Tiberius was approached by an entrepreneur who had discovered a method for manufacturing unbreakable glass. Tiberius asked the enterprising fellow if anyone else knew of his secret, and was assured the secret was safe and no one else knew. Tiberius then had the man beheaded. Why? To protect the price of gold, which Tiberius figured would go through the floor if people put too much value on a material (glass) that he, Tiberius, did not control.

The story is shocking for obvious reasons but also telling – an inventor even in the midst of a prosperous empire had nowhere else to go other than the emperor for funding. Here’s to angels, VCs, personal credit cards, friends & family – whatever fuel you can put in your tank to get going with your venture!

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Entrepreneur, Know Thyself!: Podcast

An interview with Georges van Hoegaerden of The Venture Company

Listen to this podcast from outstanding venture capital and entrepreneurship thinker, Georges van Hoegaerden, who discusses the 35 venture funds who make money – out of 790 funds in the US. Georges says that even though they make money, they are not necessarily good venture funds!

Entrepreneurs are not spared from Georges’ eagle eye. His biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs is to know exactly who you are and what you want out of an investor so that you can go to the right kind of investor in the first place. So many company founders have a one-dimensional outlook: I need money, and they have money. End of story. But that’s not a thorough enough understanding of your own mindset and the actual needs of the investor, to know whether there’s a chance of a good marriage, or a relationship that will hit the rocks fast. Many founders are so desperate for money that the attitude is, “any port in a storm,” without realizing that the wrong money could lead to the wrong relationship which could lead to the entrepreneur being fired or going bust far faster than if a slower and more thoughtful approach had been taken, resulting in eventually finding the perfect partner. Listen up!

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