Eric David Greenspan
hockey dad | husband | author | foodie | TED attendee
workflow expert | marketing wiz | techie | automation pro
The NHL centre ice circle is blue. The TED carpet that speakers stand on is a red circle. Both are highly desired places to stand, speak or skate. But the best way to get to either is to focus on what will get you there, not on getting there. Focus on the work, development, the achievements and the ride, and maybe, although unlikely, you’ll stand in one of those circles one day.
As a TED attendee and TEDx host, I often hear and see the statement “I want to do a TED Talk.” I respond with something like, “Do not strive to be a TED speaker. It’s exactly what TED is NOT about. TED happened because the need to share great ideas and stories about achievement, wonder, and change, happened. Sharing those ideas was the goal, but the achievements came first” It starts with the idea, or the accomplishment, whether it’s the NHL or TED. If you want to deliver a TED Talk, do something important, that solves a big problem, that is transformative, or useful, something that matters. Then, if you do it well, TED will find you, and, maybe, just maybe, you might get to tell your story in the red circle. If you don’t, you did something to change the world, which is far better an achievement than the TED Talk you desire.
Unless you live in Minnesota, most people don’t have children with the intended goal that their children will someday play in the NHL. At least not initially, anyhow, I hope, and I’m kidding about Minnesota. We have children to build a family…to expand and carrying on our family name and heritage…to share the ride with and to love…right? As they grow up, they may choose a path. As parents, isn’t it our responsibility to nurture them and help them achieve? I believe it is. So why not give it all we’ve got? Why not strive to be the best and teach your children to do the same?
Young hockey players all dream to play in the NHL, an important goal. But it requires a ridiculous amount of hard work, commitment and well over 10,000 hours of practice to get even close. Only the absolute best make it. Part of that is luck, genes, and the rest is related to access to resources, and then it’s just their willingness to work and achieve. They may never step inside that blue circle on NHL ice, but they won’t give up either. They will take what they’ve learned along the way, the confidence they’ve gained, and they will continue their journey towards success.
Many kids today dream about being a famous YouTuber. The funny thing about that is the famous YouTuber that inspires them never thought the same…she just became one. She just did it and she worked harder than anyone you know, but you’d never know it, because to her, it wasn’t work, it was her passion. Mine is writing this blog post, indirectly. What’s yours?
It reminds of the Mark Zuckerberg Facebook story. He said, “I never wanted to build a company” and claims it was “never about money.” The story goes that he just wanted to do something cool, something that people needed, solving a problem. But whatever it is, he built it to be great, not be a great company. He built it solve a problem and create something people would eventually love, not to make money. I believe it. It seems common for many success stories. A quick search at TED doesn’t show results of any Mark Zuckerberg talks, and you know what, I’ll bet they’ve asked.
I often meet hockey players that were once one step from the NHL. They got so close, but they didn’t make it. They all have one thing in common…an intense passion for achievement and an unwillingness to give up. You can see it in their eyes. The NHL thing didn’t work out, but the training, development and achievements along the way are deeply rooted within them, and this is helping them find something equally great, or maybe even better. I’m watching this happen in several different cities and rinks. I’m watching and learning how hard work leads to hard work, which leads to achievements, repeatedly, over time, no matter the circumstances, or the stage. I’m watching these once NHL hopefuls move on from the disappointment, and set new goals and achieving them. They are coaching our kids in their spare time, or full time, and IMHO, they are standing in the blue circle, maybe a slightly different one, but it’s still in the middle of what matters. If you ever wonder why I love that my kids play hockey, now you know.
If you want to get into the NHL or on the TED stage, it’s pretty clear it won’t be easy. In fact, it is probably not going to happen. But that shouldn’t deter you from trying. The goal is important, but if you want to get there, just work hard, be relentless, passionate, and you cannot even consider ever giving up. Then, you might, stand in the one of those circles. Whether it’s the blue one at centre ice, or the red one on the TED stage, I hope you get there. Most likely you won’t, but the important part is how hard you tried, and what you learned and shared along the way. You did everything you could do, your best, and it really is enough. Focus on the ride and the moon will soon be in sight.
Added after posting…
My son Jacob just called me while I was writing this post. I stopped to take the call. He was on his way to the Coachella Festival, after recording with a Disney talent. He calls me almost every day to share his latest achievements and his “vibes.” The kid is on fire and he’s a wonderful human. This past week he graduated from Berklee College of Music, and was signed as a producer last month by the Futuristics, and has already sold a few songs. He’s 22 and he is living life to the fullest, in the heart of the music industry in Los Angeles, achieving everything he could ever have dreamed about. But that’s just it, he never dreamed about any of this. He just played his guitar, often, with no goal other than to play and be better each day. He achieved that, and today he gets paid handsomely for doing what he loves. One day I expect he will be standing in a different circle, perhaps the winner’s circle on the stage at the Grammys. It was never anyone’s goal, but it’s probably going to happen, because his work ethic is fabulous, and his talent is fierce, and most importantly, he’s focused on the song, the one he’s producing today, not the stage he will likely stand on tomorrow.
Woke up and there it was, my book cover. She just made it and sent it to me. I looked at it for a bit and started thinking about writing it. Then I did. I published the initial draft this past weekend and it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon.
It’s interesting how the headline mentions “mindset” as that’s what happened here. My fiance, Angela, who is in her final year of law school, put this in my mind. All she sent was a cover, an idea, in my inbox. An idea so powerful, it made me get busy, and now I’m an author. The book is trending and it’s #1 in the small business category right now. Smart lady this Angela.
Why did I write a book? Because I have so much to share, but honestly, I share my thoughts and ideas every day on social media, webinars, podcasts, etc. But books are different; people treat you different when you become an author. The comments and likes on the first Facebook post about “oh, hey, wrote a book” were insane. My friends and family are really proud. I’m really proud and I have the fever. I’m going to keep writing books; many of them.
What’s it about? Pricing. In particular, it’s about pricing for service providers namely accountants, bookkeepers and business owners. But it really can be applied to any service professional or really any profession. We talk about pricing types and models, but the true focus of my book is on the psychology of pricing, how confidence plays a major role in your ability to set and sell yourself at a certain price, and then how to sell yourself at a higher pricing level.
Give it a read, a review, help me write more books. I’m really excited about it. I hope it helps you and your career. You can buy it here.
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.
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.
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:
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:
We grew some more and eventually, after becoming the 42nd Citrix Platinum Partner, the company was sold to Push Computing LLC and this happened:
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:
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.
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:
Here’s MIW II’s fleet of Mini Coopers:
I’m off and doing other interesting things today. I run astUtemy and 74 Systems. They also have logos, but no cars.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Part of my Think Big presentation is the 10 Commandments for Entrepreneurs. I’ll explain in detail at Sage Summit.
Ready to Ignite Your Practice?