When Your Legs Start Shaking, Just Keep Talking

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring0 Comments

Back in 2001, I started my 3rd company out of my 3rd bedroom in my newly rented townhome on the beach after separating from my oldest son’s mother. I had no choice. I had just sold my last company and I needed to keep busy. I built and built and built and one day, I wrote a business plan and sent it off for review to an angel funding group. I pitched 4 locations, including Hawaii. I got a few bucks out of a guy that wasn’t even in the room, but overheard from outside the banquet room. Not a nickel from a member. Not even a call or an email. Overall, it was a massive failure. Hawaii was fun though. I knew I was in trouble though when the guy sitting next to me responded to my question, “How many of these have you funded?” with “I’m not an investor. The guy running this thing is my neighbor and he paid me to come sit here.”

When I had the chance to pitch another angel group in Los Angeles, I was so reluctant, but I did it anyway.

After passing the initial review, I was signed up for my first pitch. I arrived at a big building on Wilshire or maybe Santa Monica Blvd. I’m not sure this matters, but it was one of those roads and it was a copper colored building, about 25 stories or so. It’s all a blur now, and honestly, it was then too. I was scared…really, really scared. Not of failure. I was scared to speak. Absolutely scared to death. I almost turned around and went home. But I didn’t. I parked, walked in and to my astonishment, the 25 or so I was expecting in attendance was actually over 125. Now, I wanted to puke. I started to sweat. I lost my focus. I couldn’t think. I wanted to run.

Then, I heard them call my name. It was my turn to speak, to pitch. There was a podium. I NEVER use a podium. I like to wander, walk about, sit on tables and such. But this time, as it turns out, that podium was a lifesaver. As I approached it, I felt my leg start to twitch. No, it wasn’t a twitch, it was a rattle. No, not a rattle, a violent and uncontrollable shake. It was going crazy. I couldn’t focus. My leg was spazzing and I began to sweat more. I kept talking, pitching, working through my deck. I don’t even know if I was speaking loud enough or if anyone could understand me. All I could think about was my leg. I was worried they could see it, even behind the podium. I could sit it. It was nuts. And then, suddenly, it stopped. I was so overwhelmed that I just gave up worrying. I just figured it didn’t matter anymore, and I would just do what I came to do so I could leave. I did. I finished. I left. I think…most of it’s a faded memory.

Over the next few months, I landed the most funding of any company to date with that organization. I hit a homerun.

Today, I rarely get anxious on stage. I just picture that moment and it all just seems to drift away. Experience. Completion. Commitment. Devotion. A Podium.

Never Stop Learning

Eric GreenspanNever stop learning0 Comments

I’ve been a student most of my life. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time in “unfamily court.” While I really don’t want to be there, I kinda love it. I watch case after case and hope I’m not called next, so I can watch more. The judge is smart and fair and I like her. The process fascinates me. It’s very clickish in that you are a bit of an outcast if you don’t understand the complicated procedures. Some of the attorneys are something else, one in particular. I watch bad things happen and good things too. Good or bad, I learn more in that courtroom than most people do in law school. It’s not because I’m smarter or more capable. I just love to learn and in that courtroom as icky as it gets sometimes, I’m a sponge.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, you have to keep using your mind, keep up with change, and learn as much as possible. In fact, you really should never stop learning.

I’ve been to TED twice, the holy grail of education and smart folks. I’ve run TEDx a few times too. As the licensee and host of TEDxAmericanRiviera, I learned how to deal with some pretty challenging folks. Smart people can be really difficult. I also learned from the process. And of course I learned from the TED talks. It was heaven. I may do it again.

Lately, I’ve been building two companies. One helps accountants, bookkeepers and business owners achieve success in their business. At 74 Systems, we help them find customers, grow and manage their workflow. The other helps them learn. At astUtemy, we build amazing content, video education mostly, and our library keeps growing!

I read and listen and watch and play all day long. I can’t get enough. I love to make things work. I owned two companies called Make It Work. This was not by chance. But today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I took a test, willingly, and for no particular purpose. I took the QuickBooks Online exam. And I passed.

I’m now a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor. I’m now my customer. Well, not really, but almost all of them are ProAdvisors too. Being certified in this field helps me build a connection to my clients. It helps me learn about their world and their challenges. I can speak their language and share experiences and know more about their needs.

I am proud to have passed the exam. I’m more excited about the possibilities it may lead to. Two people signed up today for astUtemy because of it. They told me they thought it was cool and it’s what led them to sign up. I was pretty stoked to hear that!

So, now, I have two more goals. The first is to pass the Xero exam, QuickBooks Online’s largest competitor. Then, back to QuickBooks for the Advanced Certification. This one is tough, but I’m going to nail it! Then, perhaps my MBA and JD. I once was a pre-med student. Nah, doctors don’t make what they used to. I changed my major 25 years ago for that same reason. Either way, I’m going to rack up every certification I can muster. I love having the badges but I love learning even more. I’m addicted and I’m not gonna stop, ever.

Make It Work, Now Belongs To Geek Squad

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring0 Comments

In 1995, I sat on my couch with an IBM Thinkpad 720C, Coreldraw, Microsoft Word and created Make It Work. I wrote a one page business plan and create this logo:

CLOGO256

My business idea was simple, I wanted to help people “make it work” in their business using technology and building operational software solutions. I built CRMs out of Microsoft Access and installed networks. I had a few home runs early on and the company grew.

Then, I realized my Ks where different widths (and the E) and hired someone to fix it. The next MIW logo looked like this:

Logo - Color - Flat - with byline

We grew some more and eventually, after becoming the 42nd Citrix Platinum Partner, the company was sold to Push Computing LLC and this happened:

miwnowpush

Push landed KPMG who eventually would own a decent part of the company. 2001 was a tough year for all, and when the other founder and I butted heads, I took the “Incentive To Leave Option” as was offered to over 40,000 IBMers in the early 90s. I got paid a few bucks and I left.

Next, came MIW II…but before we get to that part, let me explain why I’m writing this post. My brother, our COO at MIW II and my right arm, sent me a link to a post that Best Buy is switching from VW Beetles to the Toyota Prius. I was overwhelmed with that choice, but as I scanned the article published in the Star Tribune, APRIL 11, 2016 — 11:07AM., I came upon this:

On Monday morning, company executives also will announce the launch of a new marketing campaign called “We Make It Work” that highlights the more expansive services of the Geek Squad.

At first, I was a little unsure what to think. But then, it just made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It was flattering. The winner of the race is using my former brand, also my mantra, to promote their company. Wow.

Years ago, I had a brief chat with Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy. After the demise of Make It Work II in June of 2012, I reached out to see if I could lend some advice or insight from my 15 year run with two companies named Make It Work. I no longer owned the URL that was mine since 1996 and I was up to my eyeballs at that time with legal issues, as I had personally guaranteed the Mini Cooper fleet, office equipment and a whole lot of company loans. It was an ugly time in my life, but I tried to make lemons into lemonade. Mr. Joly didn’t seem very interested and had one of his VPs reach out. Then another. It never went anywhere. But I guess I left a lasting impression. They just announced this:

geek squad we make it work

I knew the original founder of Geek Squad, before he sold it off to Best Buy. We had Volkwagen Beetles at MIW I before they did. This was back in the day when Geek Squad drove an ice cream truck and other strange vehicles, back when they were still really cool. I never competed with them at that point, as they were still small and we were focused on installing big Citrix based networks. We landed some big fish and did really well. As a result, MIW I was sold and I began running Push, it’s acquirer, until leaving in 2001.

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It was then that I [reluctantly] restarted Make It Work. I retained all the brand assets, the trademarks, and the domain and I didn’t want to take a job in Irvine, 3 hours away from my son Jacob. We started with Citrix again, but this time, it became obvious to us that the demand was coming from the residential sector. We had a heck of a run, but it ended 11 years later. During its existence, MIW II had a fleet of red, logo emblazoned Mini Coopers. They were fresh, hip and fun.

Geek Squad’s recent decision to go with the Prius is probably a good one, but I do worry about how the iconic design of the Beetle and the Mini are now both a thing of the past. The Prius, perhaps the most hideous car in the world, does get great gas mileage and it’s “green.” I love that part. I drive an electric Chevy Volt, I get it. My concern, we used those Minis to attract marketing attention and employees. It worked, for years, over 44,000 customers served and hundreds of technicians hired. They kept their car, drove it home, parked it on the street and the phone would ring. I wonder how the Prius will work for Geek Squad. I also hope “Make It Work” will help Mr. Joly and team reach a new level of success. I for one thought Best Buy would be gone by now, for sure Geek Squad. Well done Mr. Joly, and thanks for honoring our legacy, even the parts we tried to forget.

Here’s MIW I’s Beetle:

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Here’s MIW II’s fleet of Mini Coopers:

IMG_4387 IMG_0986

I’m off and doing other interesting things today. I run astUtemy and 74 Systems. They also have logos, but no cars.

74 Systems logo 600x180 astutemy logo 1600x500 with byline

I’m a Hero! (insightly)

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring, Ignite, Tech0 Comments

Today, I was asked to join the insightly Hero™ program. I was proud to be asked, but I’m really more focused on how this can help my business and more importantly, how it can help our customers.

As an insightly Hero™, I now have access to more information and resources to help our clients get more from their insightly deployments. I also get to be a source of answers for the rest of the world, as I will now be one of the distinguished Heroes helping insightly moderate and answer questions in their Q&A forums. I’m honored, truly, but I’m thinking I might also raise my prices. (Kidding, sort of.)

I’ve been part of organizations like this before. I’ve created and run fast growing, state of the art companies. I’ve sold companies. I’ve hired thousands. I love being in the action, at the pulse, and most importantly, I love being able to contribute.

So, while I have little to prove about my experience, I’m flattered and will serve the insightly audience and staff with passion and dedication. I love being a Hero™ and I look forward to learning and sharing.

Achieve Greatness for Yourself, Become Far More Useful to Others

Eric GreenspanIgnite, Motivational, Parenting0 Comments

When I started coaching AYSO I was confused, often bewildered. The process is a ton of work and communication is precarious. I usually got my hand slapped by my division administrator for asking a question. To be honest, the guy was a putz. Maybe too much on his plate. The rest of the administration is awesome and in particular, the head of the league. Turns out also, AYSO has much better processes and education than I had expected. I figured it all out eventually, and we had an awesome season. I will do it again next year. Read on and you’ll understand what I learned and what I will do differently next season, even with the “putz.”

Then I started coaching Pony baseball. Much looser procedures but everything gets done. The administration that runs the league however is awesome, always friendly and helpful. Big difference from my AYSO initial experience. That said, coaching baseball is far more work. There’s the precarious schedule and multiple parks and then, there’s field prep and maintenance. It’s a chore. Fun, but a lot. I asked my division leader if there was a training for this. Learning from my AYSO experience, instead of complaining about a problem that may be lacking, I offered a solution and my time to help.This weekend, 6 volunteers including the league president and several board members joined me to produce 25 videos. They turned out great, really great. The videos are being created to educate new coaches, parents, existing coaches and other volunteers on every aspect of field preparation and maintenance. We left no stone unturned. Naturally, I did the filming and editing. The videos will be available soon at https://ponysb.com.

I didn’t like the experience with AYSO at first. But I loved coaching. I learned that, while my division leader was not exactly ideal for his role, he too is a volunteer. I learned that being a volunteer puts the burden on each of us to help, add value and provide solutions to problems. So this time, when I offered my input with SB Pony, I handled it a bit differently. I offered a solution and delivered. As such, SB Pony is better today than it was before. And for that, I am appreciative of the experience, the knowledge, the new friendships, and the ability to help our community. I did good work here and good stuff for our community, all involved did as well. But, in the end, in addition to the community, it was me and my colleagues who benefitted. The sense of accomplishment and all that comes with it are now ours. So many other benefits will follow. Whether it’s just new friends, a business opportunity, or who knows what else. The point is, when you give, when you get busy, when you collaborate, you get stuff in return. Sometimes it’s merely satisfaction; sometimes it’s a whole lot more. Either way, doing nothing, I guarantee, will leave you with nothing. It’s a fact of life.

I often ask my clients “who is your number one charity?” They sometimes miss the point. Eventually they realize, that in order to give to charity, you have to achieve first. You are your #1 charity. Achieve greatness for yourself and you become far more useful to the rest of the world. The more you contribute, the more opportunities will arise. The more you are a part of greatness, the more greatness will come to you.

We discuss this the Ignite Program, usually in our first session. If you’re interested, you can learn more at https://74ignite.com.

Stay the Course – Create Success with Relentless Commitment

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring, Ignite, Motivational, Think Big0 Comments

Patience, it’s not only a virtue, it’s a requirement for success. Rarely does anything build and become valuable over night and usually, if it does, it will fall as fast. A good idea can mature to a great idea and a great business but it requires attention, nurturing and more importantly, patience. But most important is your ability to stay the course.

I watch and work with many entrepreneurs each day as they build their dreams. Some are laser focused. Many are the opposite, constantly changing direction and never giving full attention to one idea or at least a set of ideas that work together.

Success is earned and while this may be anecdotal and trite, it’s just plain true. Moreover, it’s earned through attrition, commitment, perseverance and staying power. I’m not saying you shouldn’t make adjustments along the way. In some cases changing direction is critical but the goal of achieving success must follow your initial hunch that your idea has merit. Life will challenge you; people will warn you. But your gut never lies, assuming you know how to follow it and trust it. If you believe it and you stay the course, you will find your way to success.

Keep driving, keep building. Fight off the negative, the hiccups, the winds of change, doubt and fear and create your end result. Success is yours. Stay on it. Stay the course.

Do

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring1 Comment

Every morning when you wake up, treat it like it’s your first day, and like it’s your last day, on earth. Forget all that’s happened badly. Remember all you’ve learned, but remember only what lifted you and helps drive your passion. Take the day on like it might be your last and you want to complete as much as possible before your eyes slam shut. Let go of the past, while being mindful of your mistakes to ensure you don’t make them again. Do something that you love, that matters, that will change the world, even if just a little bit or only for you or your family. Do the absolute best you can. Do lots of it. Often.

The Ten Commandments for Entrepreneurs

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring, Ignite, Motivational, Think Big0 Comments

Years ago I began doing a presentation called Think Big for area high schools and colleges which included The Ten Commandments for Entrepreneurs. It became quite popular and I was asked to keynote my Think Big presentation for Women’s Economic Ventures. I was honored and knew my material mattered when I got hugs from several of the women after my talk. In particular, Ida, who wanted to start her own peach cobbler business in her late 60s. The tears in her eyes when she realized she could do it, made me get teary eyed too. I hope she followed her dream. Since, I’ve presented at USC Marshall School of Business and UCLA Anderson School for 8 years consecutively, and countless times at other universities and colleges.

But what’s really got me excited now is I’ll be sharing my story at Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans and helping others Think Big / Ignite Your Practice or Business.

Part of my Think Big presentation is the 10 Commandments for Entrepreneurs. I’ll explain in detail at Sage Summit.

  1. Trust your gut.
  2. Never make the same mistake twice.
  3. Set achievable goals. Achieve them.
  4. Leap.
  5. Enjoy the ride.
  6. To fail is to give up.
  7. Discover your weaknesses and compensate.
  8. Be great or don’t bother.
  9. Listen. No, really.
  10. Balance.

Ready to Ignite Your Practice?

free-30-min-consultation

I’m Eric Greenspan, not Eric Greenspan nor Eric Greenspan

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring, Legal, Me0 Comments

Every day my website gets hit by someone looking for Chef Eric Greenspan winner of the LA Grilled Cheese Invitational, owner of the Roof on Wilshire and of Food Network fame. Sometimes I get hits from someone looking for Eric Greenspan the LA attorney who has represented Christina Aguilera and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And every once in a while, someone is looking for me, Eric Greenspan, the serial entrepreneur, dad and closet chef, chief consultant at Greenspan Consulting and Chief Storyteller at schoolofbookkeeping.com.

eric greenspan chef

Eric Greenspan, chef

On Twitter, I’m often responding to someone who is clearly looking for @chefgreeny, the Foundry chef. The guy is famous, so I enjoy passing along his tweets. We’ve chatted online a few times. He recently got married in my home town of Palm Springs at the Riviera Hotel where I once played tennis with Bjorn Borg and more recently attended TED. We seem to cross paths often.

A few years back, we won a big award and wanted to celebrate. My team wanted to go to Mr. Chow, the place in Beverly Hills where the paparazzi hang out looking for stars. I had no idea how to get a table so I just called my Onstar service and asked them to do it. When they returned to the line, they said, “ok, Mr. Greenspan, you’re all set. Table of 6 at Mr. Chow at 8pm.” We were stoked!

When we arrived, the hostess looked at my strangely. She asked, “Are you the chef? The attorney?” I replied, “Nope, just the CEO [of a relatively small company].” She sat us. I saw her talking to the manager and I knew what was going on. Regardless, we spent a small fortune and enjoyed the night.

A little more than three years ago I was on the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills on Food Network. Like the other Eric Greenspan, we are both foodies and if you google “Eric Greenspan Food Network,” we both show up.

eric greenspan lawyer

Eric Greenspan, lawyer

I’ve not yet run into the Eric Greenspan the lawyer but I hope that I do someday. Maybe I can get on the Voice and be picked to Christina Aguilera’s team?

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Eric Greenspan. He made me lunch at the Roof. I had his infamous grilled cheese. It was truly epic. We talked for an hour and became friends instantly. I look forward to meeting his wife soon and entertaining them on their next trip to Santa Barbara. Maybe we’ll cook together!

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Are you seeing double?

When I arrived at the Roof, I gave my car to the valet. He asked for my name. I said “Eric Greenspan.” He said, “you’re going to see Eric Greenspan?” I said, “yes.” He then said, “so what’s your name?” I replied, “Eric Greenspan.” With a very puzzled look he handed me my ticket.

A couple years ago, I got an email from the Huntley hotel in Santa Monica. It was referencing my recent 5 night reservation which I never made. I had stayed at the Huntley a few times but in this case it was a case of mistaken identity. The reservation wasn’t mine, it was for the chef. I called the Huntley to clear it up and then forwarded the email to chef. He and I got a good laugh out of it.

On my way to meet chef Eric Greenspan at the Roof, I emailed Eric Greenspan the lawyer letting him know. Turns out they know and like one another. Soon, I will meet the lawyer and then I will try to arrange a lunch for all three of us.

Why am I doing this? It’s fun and they are great people. Life is short. Wouldn’t you want to meet someone that shares your name, particularly if your name is uncommon like ours? Perhaps you wouldn’t, but I did and so far the experience has been great.

Anyhow, I’m glad I got a chance to clear this up. Hello to all the Eric Greenspan’s in the world.

Better Business Bureau vs. the Mafia

Eric GreenspanEntrepreneuring5 Comments

The Better Business Bureau was created by and for business. It’s not a government agency. It once had a true purpose and provided protection to consumers. Today, in my opinion, it’s a business that makes its living off of coercing other businesses to become a member. If you don’t, they give you a low rating based on, well, I’m not sure what. It reminds me of another business model, the Mafia. The only difference here is the Better Business Bureau doesn’t hold a gun to your head to get you to pay. Well, it’s not a gun actually, but it feels like it anyhow.

I started my first company in 1995. Like many, I joined the Better Business Bureau. I thought it would help me gain more customers. I put their logo on my website and it worked, a little. As time passed, the Better Business Bureau’s influence faded, like the Yellow Pages. People would soon forget they existed. They, like any business, needed to grow their revenue. I get that, but what they did next, I will never understand.

In my next company, I chose a different plan of action. After getting a couple of negative BBB reports, we simply ignored them. Since we weren’t a member, the BBB couldn’t do anything about it. We contacted the client directly and remedied the situation. We then petitioned the BBB to remove the reports as we were not a part of their network. They did.

After a while, I reconsidered and decided to learn more about the BBB again. I contacted the local president and we discussed the deal terms. I noticed he had us listed on the site as a B-. He explained that the two negative reports we had was a lot for a company with only several hundred customers. I explained that we had over 25,000 customers and then reiterated that we only had two negative reports. That’s a pretty good ratio. Without asking me to verify a single number and after I agreed to join if he fixed this, I hit refresh on my browser and our score was an A+. I was shocked. One click from this guy and a company’s reputation is changed dramatically. He didn’t ask me a single question. He just did it, after he knew the money was coming. I never paid him.

Next, I received an email from the BBB. It was from their “merchant services partner” and came to me from a person@betterbusinessbureaudomainaddress.com (that’s not a real domain, but you get the point). He specifically stated in the email that he was “FROM THE BBB.” I smelled bullshit! Naturally, I responded and asked about their services. I learned that the person who sent the email wasn’t at all a part of the BBB. He had just cut a deal with them and they allowed him to market to their clients, and they gave him the use of their domain to send his emails. I was appalled. I contacted the BBB local president, again. I asked him why would he try to fool someone into believing that they were representing the BBB, when in fact they were a third party. I also asked why he would allow that third party access to this client list to spam/solicit their services? I expected more from an organization that claims to be the “trust authority.” He didn’t have a very good response, needless to say. Let me say that again, the BBB sold their client list to a third party and then allowed them to misrepresent themselves as an employee and service from the BBB. Yep, that really happened.

I’m a big fan of Yelp. I use it all the time. The reviews are generally legitimate. A restaurant with 4+ stars is almost always good if there are enough reviewers (typically more than 50 is my threshold). Yelp can also hold a company hostage, but not in the same way. They are fair(er) in their manner of managing this process. While they do discriminate from time to time by removing posts or changing how posts are approved, they seem to be getting it right. Their business model is to sell a business on services that are beneficial for their marketing. These services are not mandatory, and for the most part, they are not holding you to buying anything as a result of the reviews you receive. You can access the reviews for free, respond directly to the reviewer and you can even contact Yelp and ask for a review to be removed if you feel it was illegitimate.

When I think of the Mafia, I think of their visits to the local merchants to collect rents. A percentage of their revenues was expected or else. When I think of Yelp, I think of a great service that has built a reasonable revenue model that may or may not produce results. I believe Yelp has good intentions and they’ve certainly improved over the years. When I think of the Better Business Bureau, I think of what was once a Yelp and now, well, let’s just go back to “when I think of the Mafia.”