Entrepreneur YOU!

Symptoms of the chronic disease of entrepreneurialism to be on the alert for.

Posted in Personal Journey by Robert Lindsay Thompson on February 3, 2011

Within your mind there are rich, undeveloped entrepreneurial ideas that require cultivation

One thing a would-be entrepreneur has no shortage of: IDEAS. In fact, it’s one of the surest signs that you may be, in fact, a “closet” entrepreneur. Additional symptoms may include (but certainly are not limited to): a reoccurring and lingering DISCONTENT despite whatever your job is or has been. A secret sense of GRANDIOSITY. You privately think you have much better ideas for new products and businesses than others that appear successful. An inherent REBELLION. You hate being given orders by anyone, particularly by those who you know are less intelligent or capable than yourself.

In the final stages of chronic closet entrepreneurialism, before you break out into a full blown episode of what may appear to be insanely irresponsible behavior as you impulsively quit your secure job, abandon your commitments and squander your nest egg… you may experience MANIC DEPRESSIVE periods; “high” on visions of starting your own business and imagined feelings of future success followed by depression to the point of immobility thinking about what will be the likely wreckage that your life will become… unemployed, homeless, bereft of sanity and companionship.

Whether you are in the early or later stages of the “disease” of entrepreneurialism, you are not crazy. You are not irresponsible. You are not somehow flawed, unable to settle into a normal job and be happy. You just have a disease. The disease of entrepreneurialism. Fortunately or unfortunately, with time, it will only become worse, never better. Ultimately, you will face a choice. Accept the growing misery that an unexpressed, unfulfilled entrepreneurial spirit brings. Or figure out a way to make it happen.

In my mid twenties, I get my first “real” professional full-time gig. The vice president of development at CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) created a new position – a sort of “special teams” thingy – just for me. I helped design seminars, produced tv spots, developed innovative market research and new “tools” to add to or improve upon their $100,000,000 fund-raising buffet. Really cool stuff.

Another (even better) opportunity came up when the Executive VP in charge Global TV Marketing) who used to be in charge of a whole freakin’ hemi-sphere for Exxon) offered me a job. I would be traveling the world (to like 50+ countries) selling ancillary rights to all their television programming (CBN owned the Family Channel). It sounded like THE perfect job. However, as a discerning and wise man, he quickly discovered in the interview process, my inherent restless entrepreneurial spirit. We ended up talking about my “vision” of producing a theatrical feature film on the book of Revelations.

He advised me thusly: You could get this job. Travel the world. Be successful. However, one day, you will look back and regret not “going for” your vision, your hearts passion. I advise you to “go for it”. Go for it with wisdom, but go for it. I took his advise. I didn’t take the job. I quit CBN. I started a company. I worked to develop my feature film. He became my chief advisor and primary investor.

So. I advise you to do the same. “Go for it.” Go for it with wisdom… considering the times and seasons of your life and the market place… but go for it, non the less.

If you don’t. As a subplot in the movie Flashdance depicts, something inside of you will die.

My First Tech Job as a Keypunch Card Verifier at 10 years old

Posted in Personal Journey by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 22, 2011

My mother was a computer programmer and key punch operator back in early days of technology. I was her side kick and first employee of the tech service bureau she opened up in Dallas, Texas back in the early 60’s. I got 5 – 10 cents an hour for verifying punch cards or scanning printed reports for errors. I was 10. It was my very first job in technology. It was also my first experience shadowing an entrepreneur.

Verifying was the procedure, after the keypunch operator completed “punching” out the required data on an 80 column card, that replicated the strokes in another machine. If there was an error, a big red light would blink, requiring further verification of the data. The redundancy was necessary step to insure accuracy. All told a very tedious process. The residue from the punches were called “chits”, which were fun to play with but impossible to get out of the rug. They made great confetti though.

Key punch card

We had 3 key punch machines and 2 verifiers arranged in the living room of our 2 bedroom apartment. She also operated a tech school on the side, training wanna be key punch operators. Interestingly, she trained and placed the very first African American tech woman ever in that city. Although the money flowed freely for a year or two, eventually things imploded and we were forced to move back to Detroit.

Things have a way of working out though. She got a job as a computer programer at Ford Motors working the midnight shift. She pretty much had the place to herself. I accompanied her upon many an occasion to play video games the Ford programers developed during their free moments. Just me in the dark at an ancient keyboard in front of a huge cathode ray tube screen. This was long before the first video game “Pong” hit the streets.

At that time, advanced memory repositories occupied several ice-cold floors where huge disc platters and tape drives crunched the data. Now I can carry all that information on a thumb drive or two. Incredible, astronomical advancements, yet the essential principals remain the same. The human brain is still the most awesome technological and entrepreneurial tool in the universe.

The human brain remains the most amazing technological and entrepreneurial resource in the universe


Discovering the right timing for your entrepreneurial enterprise.

Posted in E Essentials by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 19, 2011

There is a time and a season for every purpose.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve always felt that my vision is 99% accurate. I “see” something in my minds eye that needs to be created or done but has yet to be evidenced. I get a picture of it. The picture or vision of it becomes more distinct as I travel towards it. Brick by brick, I construct the enterprise, product, marketing piece, creative project, personal adventure that I have envisioned. I am and have been a man of vision. My life (personal and vocational) has been all about seeing and creating things that have never existed before… and helping others do the same.

However, my sense of “timing” has never been as acute. In fact, sometimes, it has really sucked. In the late 80’s /early 90’s I was able to achieve what few were able to do, which was to lose a lot of money in the southern California real estate market. I seemed to have an uncanny sense of buying at the top of the market, and selling at the low point. During the raging China Bull market of the 90’s, I was able to lose a small fortune chasing newly minted China “B” shares, offshore managed China funds and other “leveraged” financial products focused on it and other, small emerging markets.

True, I’ve been a pioneer. I once built what became the largest independent motion-picture studio complex in a bedroom community 30 miles from Hollywood. It become the first of literally hundreds of entertainment related companies that now proliferate the region. The first years were arduous and painful. I had an idea that was “before it’s time”. I didn’t “catch a wave”, I created a wave. I’m sure that many of the companies that have ridden that wave since have profited much more than I ever did.

In my last business, I put together complex data depicting international trade and traders in a way that had never been done before. The software that I, and my small team innovated, over years of constant development, far exceeded that of any competitor – despite them having 10,000 times the money and 100 times the staff. However, being first and best doesn’t necessarily translate into commercial success and retained wealth.

In the last case, a very prestigious venture capital group, had agreed to bring $20 million in capital and another $20 million in sales /joint ventures. The plan was to go public within 3-5 years. A deal was drafted in the fall of 2008. Literally days before we signed the final documents, along comes the global meltdown that devastated world financial markets as well as our plans. 18 months later, in the wake of vastly diminished sales and bleak economic conditions, the company was sold for a fraction of it’s 2008 valuation. Timing.

So, what’s the lesson learned? For me it is: Without “vision” you will never create anything. However, without “timing”, you won’t make much money.

The question becomes; how does someone know the proper time or season to launch a business, to strike out on their own?
To expand their business, to even when to lay people off? As the Kenny Rogers song states, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run?”

Obviously, I don’t have THE answer for every entrepreneur that will fit every business case. Notwithstanding, i think it is important to at least consider the times and seasons… that contextualize your business, of your product /service, of your market… as well as the changing times and seasons that influence your personal life and heart… before making significant (potentially life /business changing) decisions.

As one author puts it, “no one knows the times or seasons; time and chance happen to all.” On the other hand, it is good to check the weather forecast, before launching your boat.

Using your “identity compass” to find your own “true north” in business.

Posted in E Essentials by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 15, 2011

So you want to be an entrepreneur? Well, the first thing, other then learning how to spell the freakin’ word correctly, which takes some rehearsal, is figure out where you’re at and where you wanna go. This may seem obvious to some, but really, it us usually overlooked. Imagine you wake up in the middle of an unfamiliar wilderness. First thing you’d do is take stock of your resources (see post, “personal inventory”). The very next thing you’d need to do is figure out where you are… and where you wanna go. Helpful tools at this point are a map and a compass.

Utilizing visible reference points, you need to establish your current location. Not where you wish you were… or even where you desperately need to be. Your current location is not where you will ultimately be – given motivation, persistence and some help along the way. But it is the place you begin. You cannot begin your entrepreneurial journey, from any other place than from the place you actually ARE. IF you had money, IF you had a partner, IF you had certain skills, IF things were neatly arranged differently in your life… THEN you would be in a better place to begin. However, IF you wait for such thing, THEN, most likely, you will never begin. As the proverb says, “a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step”.

What’s are the best first steps to take? Where is the best initial destination to head to? At this point (after establishing your initial location – metaphorically speaking) you are best served by paying close attention to your compass. The terrain may be too mountainous, the ultimate destination too obscure, the path ahead too undefined to get a ready fix on a clearly seen objective with sure, straight route to it. NO, wilderness trekking is rarely quite that easy. The unbeaten path of each individuals unique entrepreneurial adventure, is after-all, unbeaten.

No, you must set your compass to your own “true north” and follow it to the best of your ability, with all your heart; tenaciously, defiantly, sometimes insanely. No half measures will do. Be warned, the route is circuitous and thorny. The entrepreneurial journey is, before everything else, a journey of the heart. Your “true north” is anchored in your “essential” identity. Who you are intrinsically. What makes you tick. What you aspire to be and do and why. It is your “spiritual” core, your truest self. Your internal guru or sensei. Your best guess, an intuition of the most right way, your “gut” feeling. Learn to trust it. Learn to depend upon it. Try not to betray it.

Other peoples “magnetic” personality will sometimes cause your own compass to flutter. Particularly when you face tough decisions and you feel insecure. Of course, getting feedback and (small doses of) advise is wise. Ultimately, you must refer back to your own “identity” compass, though your path may diverge from theirs. Be true to your compass. Be faithful to your own unique path. Trust yourself to the process. This is the very best way to begin.

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Entrepreneur Material? My own quirky background is a strange alchemy.

Posted in Personal Journey by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 11, 2011

Entrepreneurs are made of a strange brew most times

I distributed this list of questions to a class of 2 dozen students I was (guest) teaching at my daughters high school entrepreneur class. I hung $100 in twenties on the board and told them I would award it to anyone who could correctly guess the number of true answers.

I ended up keeping my $100, but did lead to an effervescent discussion on the nature of entrepreneurship.

Q: How many of these statements do you think are true?

1. I am currently 49 years old, married with 5 children
2. I’ve given away over $1,000,000 in cash
3. I’m a high school drop out
4. I’ve survived 2 major urban riots, 3 earthquakes, 2 tornados and 2 armed assaults.
5. I’ve been in and out of 12 maximum-security prisons, numerous treatment centers, rescue missions and a psyche hospital
6. I’ve been investigated by the FBI and held as the prime suspect in a murder case
7. I’ve gone Bankrupt twice
8. I was a homeless, a panhandler, a hobo riding the rails, ate food out of garbage cans and once slept in a cardboard box
9. I once carried around a briefcase stuffed with $200,000 in small bills for several weeks armed with a loaded 9mm.
10. Like Captain Cook, I’ve ventured to the actual “treasure island” in order to bury a $1/2 million treasure.
11. I founded a company that had clients in 95 countries and touched 1 million companies
12. I’ve studied seven forms of martial arts, my body is branded with a Samari symbol and I’ve studied Chinese for five years
13. I was in a drug rehab program for almost three years
14. I once tried to sell guns to the infamous Black Panthers in inner city Detroit, back in 1969.
15. I have been shot at twice, chased with a butcher knife and had my convertible fire bombed
16. I established the largest motion picture studio in Hollywood
17. I’ve produced three features films, written a novel and published a book.
18. I filmed a documentary in the worst death row in the U.S. featuring some of its most notorious inmates
19. I started and ran a kids toy store in Tennessee
20. I helped raise $100,000,000 for a right wing evangelical TV preacher who once ran for president
21. I sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of survivalist supplies to religious cult groups
22. I co-founded a committee promoting global peace within an organization that has been nominated for the Noble peace prize 8 times and won a prestigious international award.
23. I helped produce over 100 movies, TV shows and commercials including Terminator 2 and Star Trek 4
24. I have created websites that have generated over $1,000,000
25. I have been serenaded by a man who once ripped out the heart of a Christian “do-gooder” with his bare hands
26. I once swam with a school of hungry 8 to 12 foot sharks, coming within inches of being eaten
27. I’ve shot machine guns and automatic weapons with an FBI anti-terrorist strike team
28. I’ve been personally assailed by the LAPD and swat team
29. I was involved in a high-speed chase with an armed bank robber
30. I saved the life of a 12-year-old crack addict-prostitute with the help of his friend “Vampire”
31. I once sold myself for $500 to a politician in the mid-west
32. I have birthed over a dozen companies in many industries
33. I’ve created a $25,000,000 company in 5 years from only $22 in start-up capital
34. I inadvertently made a multi-million dollar deal with a guy with mob “connections” and thereafter had to go into hiding for years
35. I once ran an offshore investment firm that performed several million dollars worth of trades in China and Asia
36. I once possessed two numbered Swiss bank accounts in two different continents
37. I created a Y2K grain distribution business which generated almost $1 million dollars in only 8 months in 1999.
38. I once started a multi million-dollar business with just credit cards
39. I’ve have fed 50,000 homeless people in Los Angeles
40. I once stashed $400,000 in gold and platinum coins in my refrigerator
41. My personal friend was the man who actually built and ran the World Trade Center (Twin towers) in NY
42. Jack Nicholson once stayed with me for a couple months one summer
43. I’ve hosted Monkees, Zombies, spiders, cockroaches, blobs, aliens, and androids
44. I studied Kong fu in China town with the champion from Shanghai
45. I once held the actual starship Enterprise in my hands
46. I built a motion picture sound stage that was large enough to lay the entire empire state building down within – end-to-end.
47. I was a millionaire by the time I was 35.
48. I’ve hitchhiked across Canada twice and the U.S. several times
49. I’ve made over $30,000 from Web names I’ve thought up
50. I’ve lived in 3 foster homes, beginning at 14 years old
51. I’ve been knocked around by the guy who trained the real “Rocky”

A: Check in next week for the answer. Also, I’ll fill you in on what 1 thing I think ALL entrepreneurs have in common. I think it will surprise you. It surprised them.

Decision Matrix: A mathematical model to maximize profitability

Posted in Uncategorized by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 5, 2011

Simple Mathematical Matrix for Evaluating Opportunity

I recently created a simple mathematical matrix for evaluating which money making opportunities would be the best to invest my time, talents and energy into in 2011.  I am a strong believer that intuition, passion and purpose should be the ultimate guiding forces.  However, there is a place for analytical tools as well.  I will assume you, the reader, has a basic working knowledge of Ms Excel.

For those who are interested, you can access and copy this spreadsheet at Google docs: Decision Matrix.  If you have any questions or problems, just let me know.

First of all, I listed 7 or 8 money making options under each of two general categories.  1. Current business  2. Prospective business(es).   Then beside each of the 16 options I listed my decision criteria:

  • a. Upside (high case) $$.
  • b. Downside (low case) $$.
  • c. Overall Odds ( likelihood of success; ie generating $$, expressed as a percentage).
  • d. Interest.  (personal passion index from 1-10)
  • e. Formula: derived from averaging upside and downside (a+b/2), times overall odds (*c), multiplied by my interest level (divided by the dollar range – number of zeros; thus d/10000 because of 5-6 figure potential was the $$ range of my prospects +1

Therefore the overall formula is expressed thus in Ms Excel: =(C4+D4/2)*E4*(F4/10000)+1. The formula creates a value expressed in 1.xx that will help you evaluate the best money making opportunities available to you from the options you list.  Further calculations can help you estimate the range of money you are likely to generate.

To do this, first I summed the list 16 prospects thusly: sum column “a” (upside), sum column “b” (downside) and average column “c” (odds).  Averaging the upside total (a) and the downside total (b) multiplied by the average odds will give you an idea of the range of money you will generate IF you were to pursue ALL your listed options.  However, this is unlikely.  However this creates a good baseline for comparison.

Then choose the best couple of options from your list (remember the 80/20 rule).  Of my 16, i chose 4.  Then run the same calculations on these choices: upside (a), downside (b) times average odds (c).  What I discovered is that – because the potential $$ and odds were higher on my 4 choices then the 16… the resultant total potential $$ was higher on the 4, then it was on the 16!  I would have a greater shot at making money investing my time, talents and energy in 4 things than I would at 16!

In addition, I came up with a reasonable estimate of the $$ i am likely to generate given the pursuit of my chosen options.  It also gave me a list of options I may want to invest myself in that may not bring the highest earning potential, but are things I can do “on the side” that i have a high interest in/passion for.  Keeping in mind that i can’t depend upon them as a main stay of my income.  Hope this helps.



Dancing with the Devil: How to get ahead by going with the flow

Posted in Personal Journey by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 1, 2011

When I was starting up my motion picture studio in California; cash strapped and hustling hard, the local fire marshal showed up one day and announced that he was intending to “shut me down” and put me out of business. Unbeknownst to me, the fire sprinkler system was inadequate for my intended purpose of using the building for a motion-picture sound stage. To replace the entire sprinkler system would take hundreds of thousands of dollars that i didn’t have… cause me to cancel the much needed contract with “Night of the Living Dead, Part 2”, and indeed, put me out of business.

Of course I was enraged. I intended to fight. After many sleepless nights, conversations with friends / business associates and desperate prayer… the image of dancing with the fire marshall, not fighting him came to mind. For those who are versed in the martial arts, the engagement was to look like Tai Chi “push hands” not a Tai Kwon Do break boards session.

My persistent gentle engagement with the fire marshall led me to a engineering firm that simply replaced the feeder pipe to the system… ran some fancy calculations, charged me a couple thousand dollars… and provided documentation for me to pass the fire code as a motion picture studio.

In business and in life, meeting force with force, is ultimately exhausting, futile and damaging… especially as one gets older! Finding ways to productively engage while remaining resolute is a much needed but rarely acquired art.

I explored this theme further on my personal blog at: ZenToast

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Personal Inventory: Your Entrepreneurial Strengths & Weaknesses

Posted in Personal Journey by Robert Lindsay Thompson on December 31, 2010
Personal Inventory

Digging up (overlooked) personal assets

Every business needs assets.  They are the building blocks in creating and running a business.  Taking a hard, realistic look at the assets (tangible & intangible) that you have at your disposal is a good way to start.  Write them down and review them with a trusted friend or colleague.

These are the ones I have come up with for myself for making money in 2011.

1. 4.25 acres in Detroit, Michigan (minus property taxes owed)

2. Remaining technology assets i still possess after the sale of my company in 2010 (minus debts)

3. 13 software licenses (each with 3 applications) retained from business sale

4. Potential “earn-out”, based upon sales of the software applications I sold.

5. Connections (my network) i built over the last 10 years (within the scope of my agreed upon “non-compete”)

6. 100 + domain names I own and can attempt to market and sell.  (i have made about $30,000 -$40,000 over the last 10 years)

7. Miscellaneous possessions including a boat and two vehicles (minus repairs needed)

8. Cash in the bank, including savings and annuities

9. My business experiences acquired over the last 30 years

10. Skills (technical, artistic, etc.) practiced over time

11. My intelligence and creativity

12. Long-term relationships

 

Imagination: one of the most important tools that an entrepreneur can possess

Posted in E Essentials by Robert Lindsay Thompson on December 30, 2010

Imagination is more important than knowledge

Imagination is one of the most important tools /talents that an entrepreneur can possess.  Imagination is the ability to see realities that may not exist (yet).  It is said that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  Without imagination, the entrepreneur is blind to opportunities and possibilities.  Jesus commended the “faith of a child”.  Indeed, as children, most of us spent many hours in private revelry and make believe.  We must cultivate the capacity to dream, expand our ability to envision things beyond what presently exists.  One method is PLAY.

Your task is to recall one of your favorite childhood games and reenact it.  Yes, go ahead and be silly.  I give you permission.  In fact, it is a requirement.  Again, to quote one of my favorite world changers, “unless you have the faith of a child, you will not enter /see the kingdom of heaven”.  Without imagination, you may not get very far along your entrepreneur journey.

 

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