The Most Powerful Gift An Entrepreneur Can Give

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Researcher Robert Cialdini has studied the elements that comprise a powerful gift. From a scientific standpoint, the “power” of a gift is measured by the extent it triggers the reciprocity principle of persuasion. The greater the desire of the recipient to “repay” the gift, the greater its power. However, gifts have another source of power, the impact they have on the giver.

If your goal is to give a memorable business gift to your boss, customers, employees and other valued stakeholders, be prepared to put in some effort. Mr. Cialdini has concluded that the most effective gifts are: significant, unexpected, personalized and unconditional.

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The Humble Leadership Lesson This Young Entrepreneur Learned From George H. W. Bush

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Image Credit: The Associated Press

Before Dave Dutch was a CEO, he was a member of the US Navy Special Operations. In, Would You Risk Arrest To Reinforce Your Company’s Culture?, I recently recounted how Dave reinforced his company’s culture by not cutting his hair for over 16-months. He eventually sold that company for over $300 million.

In an email in which he thanked me for writing the company culture article, he also included an insightful vignette about George H.W. Bush and how it impacted his leadership style throughout his startup career. I was so moved by the anecdote, that I’m compelled to share it with a broader audience.

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The Best/Worst Movie Of All Time Is A Killer Guide To Startup Success (And Failure)

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Earlier this year, a decade and a half after the Citizen Kane of bad movies was released, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room returned to 600-theaters. Although a cult favorite for over a decade, The Room broke into the mainstream with the 2017 release of James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, which tells the improbable true story of how Wiseau financed, wrote, directed, cast and starred in The Room.

The Room has the distinction of initially failing abysmally and subsequently succeeding on a global scale. Unlike typical ventures that either succeed or fail in a binary sense, The Room embodies lessons that are instructive to both entrepreneurial success and failure.

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If Sam Phillips Had Acted Like Today’s VCs, Elvis Would Have Had A Great Career As A Truck Driver

 

A version of this article previously appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

What can the tech community learn about expanding diversity within its ranks from the man who helped launched the careers of Elvis Presley, BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash and Ike Turner?

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Are You A Cynic Or Skeptic? Your Answer Could Doom Your Business

 

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”  L. Mencken, American Satirist

During a recent conversation with a close friend about a high-profile politician’s motivations, my friend said, “You’re a cynic.” I corrected him and said, “No, I’m a skeptic.” It turns out, neither of us were quite right. When it comes to politicians, I am very much a cynic, but in most other regards, I’m a skeptic.

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8 Top Reasons People Want To Be An Entrepreneur

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Marketing automation company HubSpot performed a non-scientific survey of its users, asking them a variety of entrepreneurial questions. In Which Of These 7 Fears Are Keeping You From Being An Entrepreneur?, I reviewed the survey results related to why some would-be entrepreneurs never take the plunge.

Digging deeper into the data, I found that most of the reasons people cited for wanting to be an entrepreneur made sense, though several were sadly off base.

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OK, So Maybe Not ALL MBA Entrepreneurs Are Oxymorons

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

“As much as possible, avoid hiring MBA’s. MBA programs don’t teach people how to create companies … our position is that we hire someone in spite of an MBA, not because of one.” – Elon Musk, Founder Tesla Motors and SpaceX

MBA’s are an easy target for entrepreneurs’ scorn. As Peter Thiel, Co-founder of PayPal and Palantir once put it, MBA’s are “high extrovert/low conviction people.” A nice way of saying they can be arrogant mercenaries.

I too have taken shots at MBA’s, describing why they are not typically well suited for startup life in Why Entrepreneurs Hate (Most) MBAs.

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Guerilla Marketing: An Empty UPS Envelope Doubled This Company’s Sales

A version of this article previously appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

What would you do if you opened a UPS envelope and there was nothing inside?

A scrappy startup inadvertently answered this question when they accidentally mailed several hundred empty UPS envelopes. Note: the company has asked to remain anonymous, as they don’t want to alert their competitors to the success of their Stealth Campaign.

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After Completing This TechStars Exercise, Everyone On Your Team Will Pitch Like A Founder

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

I was invited to lead a Techstars LA workshop, focused on honing their elevator pitches. In my UCSB classes, my students practice their Personal Pitch in front of their peers, who give them constructive feedback. I decided to tweak this exercise for the Techstars entrepreneurs, using the format described below.

John Greathouse, listening to Lauren Tracy, Co-founder of Blue Fever, pitch her startup

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How Trying To Assassinate Hitler Led To The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

I recently enjoyed John Covach’s History Of Rock Coursera course. In an early lecture, he explains how the Nazis’ desire to protect Hitler from assignation led to the invention of recording technology that was ultimately used by musicians to create multi-track recordings, such as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This story of technology diffusion is illustrative of the Hummingbird Effect, in which a technological innovation results in unintended, non-obvious outcomes. Entrepreneurs who study historical Hummingbird Effects are better positioned to anticipate the unintended, non-obvious consequences spawned by today’s technologies.

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