The Thin Red Line

OK, so I end the day by sharing with the world a dirty little secret.  The other day my company went into temporary unauthorized overdraft. It was the first time in the company’s history that his had happened, and, as always, an “oversight”.  I was about to call the bank with the usual “sorry, I won’t do it again”. But I didn’t. I waited….and waited….and waited….for a call.

You see, I am the CEO of a start-up. And for once, times are sweet. Any day now, a rather large sum of money is about to hit the bank account….the result of  years of sweat and patience, working with investors to finance a rather large project at Amsterdam airport that will change the travel world forever….but that’s another story….

You see, I didn’t call because I wanted to test a reaction and this is the reason why:

Here I am, probably one of several hundred thousand CEOs and Managing Directors, watching for any potential red lines on their bank statements. On the other hand, the major banks are all about to publish their year end results, and with huge city bonuses being paid out, memories of huge government bail-outs this time last year are still rather fresh in the minds of business owners.  Why? Because the apparent government pressure on the banks to start lending more to business doesn’t seem to be working. But that’s another story too….

The call came! He introduced himself as Mr. so and so from “Collections” and he wanted to know about the red line. I explained the mistake, reminded him of the imminent arrival of a rather large sum of money, and of course, that it “wouldn’t happen again”. He blurted out some technical garbage suggesting he wasn’t paying a blind bit of attention to what I, the customer, was explaining, so I raised my voice with the words, “Listen, this if the first time in the company’s history. It is an oversight. And besides, why am I getting a call from “Collections” rather than my “Relationship Manager”, who by the way , I have never ever met during the entire history of my company”. I knew I had hit a nerve.

The best opportunity for any organization to establish and reinforce a relationship is during a momentary period of pain. It doesn’t need to happen often, and at the end, there may be no successful outcome. But sometimes, it’s not the outcome, but the moment itself that is memorable, and gives the customer a reason to maintain the relationship.

You’d think it was human nature…but some organizations do not possess that gene.  Great entrepreneurship is about spotting thin red line moments like this, and doing something about it.

To Be Or Not To Be

FailureWith all the self-help, management and leadership material out there, one would think that the phrase, “it’s ok to fail” would sink in.

It doesn’t.  Parts of the world embrace failure as a necessary rite of passage, other parts of the world shun it. It’s easier to hide behind the fear of failure rather than change the world. A lot of people want to change the world, BUT….they prefer others to do it for them….4 legs good, 2 legs bad, that sort of thing.

There is a vast ocean of “great ideas” that get talked about at the water cooler, in restaurants, on tops of mountains, in bed with partners.  But the amount of energy to transform that electrical pulse into something is, well, just a drop in the ocean. What a waste!

Fear of Failure is a Freakish Fad. Its time is done.  If the question is to be or not to be, then ask yourself this? Is it better to sit in mediocrity and have done nothing at all about changing the world or go into battle, knowing that if you do fail, at least you have done it for something worthwhile, and had a ball along the way.  D.O.

Who Cares About The Brave New World?

You’d think that entrepreneurs might have learned from Columbus. Most of us haven’t.

When trying to convince people the earth is round, you’re facing two groups of sceptics. First there’s the bunch of total non-believers who will sneer at you with the words: “Go on, make a fool of yourself. Oh, and take a parachute with you. You’ll need it when you fall of the edge”.  Forget this bunch…they’re just an itch on the skin!

Then there’s the much tinier rag-tag bunch of wannabees.  It’s not that you’ve convinced them, but the faintest possibility of life on Mars is so exciting that you’ve made them dream – at least for a while. They’re explorers, up for the adventure. They can sail, cook, clean the decks and see the North Star through the thickest of cloud.  You’re all in the same boat and it’s plain sailing for while, until you get to stormy seas…..then the waters get choppy, you’re tossed about in high winds, you struggle to maintain a course, and it’s taking a lot longer to reach your destination. Before you know it, the sailors are questioning you, doubting you, they’re cutting corners, they’re jumping ship and they’re even inspiring a mutiny.

But what do you expect when you’re a heretic? You want blind faith, trust, a loyal following and a bunch of ass-kissers? For what? Did you really think it was all going to be plain sailing? Did you have no idea about the storms that might batter you about? And did you really expect a loyal bunch of kiss-asses to follow you to the ends of the Earth?

If truth were told, 99% of the world aren’t heretics. Only you are. 99% of the world cannot turn their dreams into reality. Only you can. And 99% of the world NEVER sees the world in the way you see it. Only you possess that insight.  And until you hear those words  “land ahoy”, it is your job to inspire, lead and gain a loyal following as much as you can. But when you lose people for whatever reason, can’t convince them, can no longer make them dream, and no amount of carrot or stick works, then MOVE on. The world doesn’t owe you anything. D.O.