Seeking advice from Business Mentor

This Saturday, I had a 10am meeting with the previous founder and CEO of a startup I joined when I moved to the Bay area. He sold the company for a modest sum of millions, and has since retired in the peaceful and rich town of San Rafael (just north of San Francisco).

I had setup the meeting because I dreamed of him. My subconscious was trying to tell me something. Coincidentally, he also was looking for something, as he now no longer needs to work, and as Paul mentioned, the next level for him was to help others succeed, thus passing on the torch.

I made the 1.5 hour drive to Marin county, because I wanted to do this face to face. I wanted to see the man in person and have a heart to heart with him.

As I walked up to the door of his house and rang the doorbell, I looked up in the sky for a second and wondered, “What the fuck am I doing here?”

Paul opens the door, I haven’t seen him since we were acquired and things got political with the acquiring firm. His piecing gray eyes, his stature, his voice, it was all coming back to me now. Paul was very friendly, greeted me like a friend and sat me down. As he sat me down, he went on about how he thought I was looking for something, just as he was and asked me to ask him questions directly, although always controlling the frame. It was interesting, because it was like he already knew what was on my mind and was one step ahead of me every step of the way.

His insights hit hard, and it will take me years to understand everything he said. This I am sure of. Here are a few of the major points that I took down in my notebook:

  • When you are in a company, think of yourself as an “intra-preneur”. You feel trapped Richard? Why? Ok.
  • Try not to think of it as being “trapped”. Think of this as an opportunity. You are being PAID while LEARNING the skills you require to one day start your own business. Google is your oyster -take the time to learn how to company works and how it makes money and these lessons will make the time worthwhile.
  • While looking for other people, seek those made of the same “oak”. Some people get it, some people learn to understand it, and some people just don’t no matter how hard you try. My brother, for example, I wish he would understand, but he doesn’t.
  • See this as a longterm goal. A stepping stone. During your journey, you are going to go in circles, it is NEVER a straight line. However, as long as you have a vision of your final destination, eventually you can build and take the steps to get there.
  • You MasterMind Alliance is very important – people you can rely on ad advisors and who can assist you in your goals. Brain power from your advisors – example of the Client Advisory Board at our old firm. Find 3-4 positive people with good ideas, who you can trust. This can even be employees at Google! The important thing is that this is not a chat chat session to “COMPLAIN” about life or things. This is a session about ideas, positivity and sharing life challenges and finding solutions. It is important to find others with thesame mindset as you for this.
  • Within the company, while being an “intra-preneur”, you must figure out ways to make money for the company. This is your role, and you will learn in this role. It is also required as part of your journey to discover your own hidden talents and skills.
  • Let the detractors go. Envy, Anger and Vengeance are usually negative emotions. If you need to crush someone, then so be it, and do it with finality, but very rarely is this the case. [Paul gives an example where one guy at an old company was unable to work with him, and ultimately he went to his boss at the time and made an ultimatum and the other guy was fired]. Most importantly: those people whose minds are filled with this negative energy will be their own undoing. You need not alot resources or attention to people who envy you.
  • With Managers, I talked to Paul a little about my trouble with them. He agreed, and said, “Well, you are not good with managers, that is true”. Which hit hard, but now that we no longer work with him, this was really good advice!
  • With managers, reflect their goals and objectives and GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. IF you give them what they want, eventually you will get what you want. You must give to receive. KEEP YOUR GOALS CLOSE TO YOURSELF. Projecting your goals on them will only detract you from your real goal.
  • They may be “higher” than you, but in your mind, you know the real score. This is just a stepping stone for your master plan. Once you take care of all of a manager’s asks, you have time to explore the technolgoy of your compan-y and do your own personal learning that way.
  • When staring out, use your own money. When you use your own money, you are in control and you do not have to give away any leverage in control. Retain control of your business by using your own capital (funny how this parallels to Machiavelli’s The Prince is using one’s own army to retain full control of your princedom).
  • R, You need to understand how management systems work, because one day you will be managing people and they will walk all over you if you do not have this skill mastered. What is the Google business model? Study it! Use this to your advantage
  • Execution is very important, and you must write down your goals, and then breakdown the SPECIFIC skills you need to learn in order to become successful at that business. The hiring. The specific way the ads work. How you can get clients. These are skills that may take years to learn, so start now by noticing these processes and ingraining them in your mind, unlike much of the rest of the population, just waiting for their next paycheck. You MUST put money and invest towards your goals, without this it is just a pipe dream.
  • Apply the 17 principals of success from Clement Stone, the first of which is a positive mental attiture. This is the start and most important of them all. There is also a level of Serendipity – more examples given of Paul’s personal life events.
  • See this as an opportunity:
  • 1) to get paid while you learn
  • 2) to learn to deal with difficult people
  • 3) to deal with managers and pleasing them
  • This is a good start. No one else can define your wealth for you. I remember asking a social worker a long time ago for help – I was in a bad place. He said, “Paul what do you want to do with your life”
  • I said, “I want to become a millionaire. You know what he said?”
  • The worker said, “Stop bullshitting! You must be more in tune with reality. Forget your pipe dreams”
  • I called him a few months later, and told him that he had a bad mental attitude and because of that he will never have the life he really wants.
  • If I said, “R, what do you want to be? A rockstar? And you said, ‘yes’, I would not make fun of you. I would cultivate it, IF YOU WERE SERIOUS. Great. How? What does it take to become a successful rockstar? You should study the music industry. Past rockstars. A band. The elements of making music, the process of producing music. How tours work. How one reaches celebrity status. The business of producing sounds tracks. The pricing structure of the music CDs and the different channels of revenue. The dynamics of a bank for success. the type of music… Do you see where I am going with this? With ANY goal in life, you must base on merit and take the time to learn the skills that are required to succeed in this role.” (I was starting to see how his mind was working)
  • It is the same with making millions and starting your own business. What type of business do you want to start? How do you get there? A nightclub? What are the specific skills and elements of success of a nightclub? How does it work?
  • Obtain the TOOLS OF THE TRADE. This may take years, but it is your foundation. A solid foundation, once built, is hard for failure to break.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Talked to me specifically about price margins for our previous business and how this was key in negotiations and retaining our profit margins in the startup. This knowledge took Paul may years to acquire.
  • The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron – suggested read – cultivating creativity in a spiritual way, by reaching your subsconcious into the conscious. Chronicles what happens in side your dreams.
  • Plain white paper: What is your goal? How to achieve it?
  • Column A: SKILLS I HAVE
  • Column B: SKILLS I NEED
  • Last but not least, make it FUN.
  • “Paul, this all sounds great, it just…. sounds, really hard…”
  • Why is it hard? Well, you need to make sacrifices to get to where you are, but these are not in vain. Also, is it really that hard? There are always things in life that will be hard. Try to enjoy the journey. Remember as a kid, building jigsaw puzzles? The beginning is tough. However, the process is fun when you know what the big picture is. Piece by piece, as you put it together, it all becomes clear. And although the first few pieces are difficult, isn’t it fun? Enjoy the journey, enjoy the challenges. The journey continues forever, and it never ends. Thus, see your challenges as as opportunity, and HAVE FUN!

His comments and insights will continue to guide me for many years to come, I am sure of it. This was something special. As I reflected on his words, I also realized how much of this applied to Pickup. All of a sudden, for a moment as I was driving back, I felt like I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

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