Entrepreneurs Need to Be Mean

Are you mean enough to be an entrepreneur?

You were probably taught that the world is black and white. The truth is there’s mostly grey. The grey world is a dangerous place for an entrepreneur that only sees in black and white. Black and white are for middle management. If you’re going to succeed in this arena, you need to be able to find the mean. The mean is the statistical average of the shades between black and white.

The entrepreneurial sentiment of “I want to change the world” is not enough. Change is something that comes about rather easily. You already changed the world the day you were born. The deeper sentiment here is, “I believe the world is going in the wrong direction and I want to correct its trajectory.”

Sure, both statements are basically saying the same thing. But, doesn’t the latter sound more impactful and more audacious? It’s definitely more likely to achieve the status of the proverbial Unicorn. The former can provide a pretty useless foundation for building a business atop. For this reason, 99.9% of entrepreneurs will change their world. In fact, many will meet their expectations the day they even conceptualize of going to market. So, why hasn’t “I want to correct the trajectory of the world” become the cliche sentiment of entrepreneurs? Yep, you guessed it. They’re not mean enough!

I was consistently told I was mean for 20 plus years of my life. I was always dumbfounded by this notion. I was always a nice kid and my teachers always had nice things to say about me, with the exception of talking too much in class. People usually liked me and I was usually pretty popular. However, to my younger sister, Cindy, I was mean.

These mean things I did – which, reflecting back were words I said – got me in a lot of trouble. Again, it didn’t make any sense to me because I wasn’t a troublemaker. As it turns out, this was the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. Now that I’m older and my job is to manage the biases of decision makers and the markets they serve, I was really mean. I was super mean. I loved being mean!

The underlying problem was that Cindy perceived my words of wisdom to be a competitive attack. I was young and thought we had the same worldviews. She didn’t realize my intent was to play the role of big brother and to help guide her direction toward a positive outcome. She saw my views as directly opposing hers. So instead of an intellectual discussion, I was met with, “Mom, Jeff’s being mean!” We were never really close growing up. I thought she hated my personality – the same one that made me lots of friends…

Jared Schneider recently described me to a lady he is dating. He told her, “Jeff was really popular in college. But, it almost didn’t make sense. He always went against the grain. He would point something out and play devil’s advocate with people he had just met. He would pretty much cause an argument with everyone. But inevitably he would end up laughing because people would realize he was right.” Her reply was, “He sounds like a really smart guy.”

Thanks Liza! That’s sort of the point – to gain perspective. Once I made a new friend I would become their trusted advisor, understanding their viewpoint and pointing them in a new direction. If I didn’t succeed in winning them over, I still gained something. I was both entertained by the discussion and provided with a learning lesson about the viewpoint while testing the psyche’s ability to see more than one path. Whether I was playing devil’s advocate or being mean to Cindy I only have one goal in mind: correct the error.

Sometimes, admittedly, the error was mine. The way to fix an error is to unabashedly be the mean.  I am selfishly unselfish when it comes to errors. Errors torment me. My weakness in life is that I think I am correct. My strength is that I am not afraid to be wrong. This allows me to quickly correct my bias (and yours).

It is true that most people don’t want to change their bias. But, that’s not the goal. The goal is to guide the bias toward an outcome that corrects the trajectory (of the world). Let’s use a hypothetical, political ship for understanding how to correct a person’s bias:

  • Bobby likes red ships. In his world, the only ship that matters is the red ship.
  • When you meet Bobby, you recognize that there are also blue ships in the world.
  • The problem with a red ship is that passengers will only sit on the right side of the ship – so the ship leans right.
  • There’s a problem with blue ships too. The passengers will only sit on the left and the ship leans left.
  • You are an entrepreneur, you need a ship that will go straight.
  • Because you can’t change Bobby’s bias, your aim is to correct his bias.
  • You need a purple ship and you need Bobby to recognize that there is a place for red ship people on that purple ship.

How do you get a red shipmate and a blue shipmate aboard the purple ship? You find common ground. That is your job. You are an entrepreneur. And if you’re going to be any good at it you need to understand why the red and blue ships attract passengers. So that when you build the purple ship there are already passengers awaiting. It’s up to you to make it meaningful.

Find Satori, my fellow Salesperson.

Sales is Not a Dirty Word.

Convincing is not sales – Matchmaking is sales.

You are a salesperson. You’ve been a salesperson ever since you can remember. The day you started to form a personality was the day you fell into the marketplace. We may like to think of ourselves as reasonable, intelligible people, but our day-to-day is riddled with emotional input and output. These emotions are fueled by a set of beliefs and ultimately dictate our character. A salesperson understands this, embraces all types of characters, and helps the character play his or her role in the game of life.

Unfortunately, the word ‘sales’ and the professional title of ‘Salesperson’ have become tarnished in popular culture. Degrading sales into something entirely different than the prophetic role it can play in society – the distribution of goods and services within society.

Yes, there were con artists and swindlers branding themselves as “salespeople” with an ability to dawn the veil of a charismatic gentle person. These abilities allowed them to portray a personalized genuineness for each individual they interacted with and engaged. Their understanding of the psyche and the games people play coupled with a selfish outlook to get ahead, can turn any buyer into a mark. And when the plot climaxed the buyer believed the salesperson’s game was the solution to their problems. So they bought into the con artist’s game.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. In any sales scenario, we wait to see if the buying actor experiences cognitive dissonance. Let’s assume that, for the sake of argument, our salesperson does not intend to con the buyer and instead is someone helping to find a solution. If the dissonance does set in, the salesman has unintentionally exposed a vulnerability. In that moment of truth, the buyer reveals a con. Unfortunately for the buyer, this conman was not the salesperson the buyer believed him to be. Or, were they? Whether or not the intention of the salesperson was to provide a solution or a con is almost irrelevant at this point. The conman in this scenario is actually the ego of the buyer.

A true conman exposes vulnerabilities and weaknesses possessed by their mark. A true salesperson exposes needs, desires, and values in their customer. Neither is convincing their target of anything. Both are matching a proposed solution to an ideal held by the psyche of the buyer, long before the two ever met. The equation is dependent on the buyer’s ego to deduce and accurately represent their best interest in the transaction.

The two contrasting characters of Salesperson and Con artist provide us with a spectrum for business exchange. A third role emerges between the two, comprised of a myriad of actors who provide Customer Service.

Customer service wants to help everyone.
The Conman artist wants to help themself.
The Salesperson wants to help individuals find the perfect solution.

The Entrepreneur wants every individual to have the best solution. This is where things can get tricky. Is the entrepreneur a salesperson or a customer service provider? Obviously, they must be both. An Entrepreneur’s job is to recognize the con artist, provide customer service, and lead their audience to find the best solution that fits their needs. A great Entrepreneur exposes both the con artist’s findings and the salesperson’s findings and provides a solution that solves for both the desire and the fear harbored in the ego. If successful, s/he becomes the greatest salesperson.

The thing that torments me is that most Entrepreneurs don’t seem to believe themselves to be salespeople. They’ve been equipped with a fear of the word and have put a barrier along their path to success. Instead of providing great salesmanship they provide customer service – which is limited to the products they are willing to provide. Somehow they believe their decision to provide goods and services to the market is too altruistic to be placed on the same spectrum as the convincing Con artist. Or, perhaps, deep down they are afraid a selfish reason for entering the market will be exposed and that that selfish reason will make them a feared con artist. For most entrepreneurs, this is downright silly.

Most Entrepreneurs are selfishly selfless in providing goods and services they believe in and enjoy. These Entrepreneurs must not forget that they exist to provide these goods and services to others. To do this you must sell and match people with your good or service. You’re only a con if you convince someone to do something that directly opposes what you perceive to be their best interest… Is that why you went into business?

Find Satori, my fellow Salesperson.

The Millennial Whisperer

The “Millennial Whisperer” is a term coined by Luke Smaul, business leader and advisor of tied.house, Inc. While the context for coining the term was meant to cheekily label himself amongst his peers, the coinage applies to anyone possessing the ability to belong to an earlier generation while connecting with millennials. And, not just in a demanding way but in a way that converts them into believers.

I am not a millennial. Born in 1984, I was raised believing I was Generation-Y. Maybe I’m a Generation-Y, Millennial?

Sometime around 1994, PepsiCo. challenged the idea of generations with a campaign for “Generation Next.” I recall this causing some confusion amongst my pre-pubescent cohorts. Were we Generation Next?

My marketing textbooks in college (around 2004) labeled us as something else entirely. It wasn’t until well after the recovery of the .COM collapse that I first heard the term Millennial.

In truth, we are the elder millennials that don’t quite feel like we fit in with the younger millennials. Sure, we are quasi-digital natives who want to find purpose in our work.  We understand the younger millennial mindset, but It’s really not that hard to grasp. Any generation is defined by the environmental implications attributing to their group-mind. Some people possess the ability to belong to an earlier generation while also connecting with other generations.

Being labeled a millennial affords us a luxury when working with the earlier generations. We are provided with an element for surprise: “He looks like a millennial, but he doesn’t talk like a millennial. He must be 40 (Generation X).” We elders, the Generation-Y Millennials, are Generation Next. We sit on the millennial cusp minding the gap that separates our generations.

Mind the Gap and find Satori, my fellow Salesperson.

Keys to Marketing Every Entrepreneur Should Know

The Secret Keys to Marketing in 2018

  1. Don’t confuse Marketing with Operations.

Supply and demand are represented in the physical business model as Operations and the customer – Where Operations is the supply and demand is the customer. Marketing transcends operations and the customer to ensure supply meets demand. Allowing operations to dictate marketing is a common mistake that we have termed “The Entrepreneurial Dilemma.”


2. Marketing is a verb.

Marketing is both a science and an art. Marketing’s purpose is to position, manage, and innovate to ensure the demanding customers are pointed to your supply and that supply meets demand. It is marketing’s job to optimize this point of equilibrium.


3. The customer matters most.

Companies exist to serve their customers. Their purpose is to provide society, defined as a market, with a good or service that provides a benefit to individual lives. Profit is a measurement for how well a company met the demand of the market it serves. Own your purpose and adapt to the needs of the customer.


4. Data Rules the World. Digital mediums provide accountability.

Marketing and Operations have both hidden under the guise of revenue relativity. Where revenue is accepted as the metric for success rather than a final metric in a succession of mission-critical metrics. The tech community has made it possible for us to evaluate KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in real-time. A flexible organization, equipped with the right processes, can literally make adjustments on the fly to influence these KPIs. All KPIs, therefore, should point to the final metric of success: PROFIT.


5. “Content is king and Context is God.” – Gary Vee

Is this re-affirming key principle number 2? Yes. But it’s speaking more to the positioning of messaging in the act of marketing. There aren’t many organizations that have bested the marketing of religions. In Christian religions, the bible is the medium, the content is Jesus (king) and his teachings, the context is the Logos necessary for reaching the worshiper. When approaching marketing it is your duty to act like the god of your audiences.


6. Convincing isn’t Sales. Matchmaking is Sales.

Sales 101 tells us that the key to sales is providing a solution – just as we discussed in key principle number 3. Positioning a brand to excite demand and increase revenue is not a matter of convincing non-believers. It’s a matter of finding more believers and strengthening the faith in your product. Therefore, sales are directly dependent on the proportion of the market whose values align with the values of your offering. When metrics are not optimal (defined in proportion to the market) the company must evaluate both its exposure and resonance within the marketplace.

7. Success = Understanding + Execution

Successful marketing management, especially social media management, requires a deep understanding and execution of the 6 key principles outlined here. The 7th key is to adopt keys 1-6 and integrate them into your core set of beliefs and methods.


I can’t stress enough how vital these keys are to your organization and its ability to succeed. If you don’t think you can attain this level of marketing prowess, do not fret. That is actually a good thing. You’re right. As Plato said, “Man was not made for himself alone.” You might be too busy to do it alone and if you really want to build a meaningful company (Link to come) it’s absurd to think you can do it alone. Doing it alone is for the self-employed – Building a team is for the business owner.

If you’re ready to hire someone to be your marketing manager, here’s a guide to doing just that (link to come).

Find Satori, my fellow Salesman.