Monday, August 18, 2014

Networking Success | Nozad Style

There is a great lesson Zig Ziglar taught that has always stuck with me.
Zig said, “If people like you they’ll listen to you [which is nice, but not very productive], but if they trust you, then they’ll do business with you.”
And that is the one big secret of Nozad, whom I introduced in last week’s article and in my Publisher’s letter of the December issue of SUCCESS. I also promised to pass along Nozad’s 7 networking secrets that has made him a master connector - secrets that any of us can apply.
Secrets that could make all of us as wealthy as a rug dealer.
Let me outline them for you now. I drew these from a great profile piece a fellow editor colleague, Victoria Barret from Forbes, did on Pejman Nozad.
Here is No. 1…
1. Always be willing and eager to help others with an introduction or your time. And do not expect anything in return.
Reminds me of a quote from another master networker, Harvey Mackay. He said, “My Golden Rule of Networking is simple: Don’t keep score.”
The profile of Nozad is sprinkled with names of successful entrepreneurs he has backed and advised. What’s missing is what happened in between those meetings. He is constantly having conversations with young people, some still in school, and helping them along. They may or may not end up working at startups. They may or may not raise funds in companies he could invest in. He doesn’t think about it that way. He calls this “one way love.”
 “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
Keith Ferrazzi
Also note that Nozad went to the key contacts—to the influencers’ homes and to the schools the potential entrepreneurs attended. As Scott Stratten said to me in an interview recently, “Are you going to where your customers [or key contacts] are or just sitting and hoping they come to you?”
2. Be proud of where you came from and share that with others. It shows honesty and builds trust.
Nozad doesn’t represent himself as anything but a guy who sold rugs in Palo Alto and then started investing in startups. He talks openly and eagerly about his family’s background in Iran and the remarkable story of how he got to Silicon Valley. People who Nozad sold a rug to ten years ago, and had no contact with since, still felt like they knew and were close to him.  That is the social power you gain when you are willing to be completely human and authentic.
“If people like you they’ll listen to you,
but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.”
-Zig Ziglar
3. Compliment the achievements of those around you. And do it with a smile.
We all know that awkward feeling that comes with a superficial or flat compliment. It means well, but lands with a thud. Nozad deftly avoids that by focusing on what someone has accomplished and tying it to who they are deep down.
He tells one entrepreneur, “Starting things is in your DNA.” And with that, he nails exactly what this guy is proud of, and makes him feel good about it. His phrasing has so much more genuine punch to it than if he’d just said, “You’re a great entrepreneur.”
People yearn for validation, to feel important, to be recognized for their effort and achievements. You can build great bonds by looking for those things that people are proud of and pointing it out.
4. In conversations search for a common ground. It may take a while, but there is surely something to bring you closer.
This is perhaps the trickiest area for all of us. You meet someone at a cocktail party, and you know just enough about them to know you could both benefit from connecting and then… blah. You struggle to get beyond the “Any vacations coming up?” chatter. Instead Nozad Googled his early rug clients so he knew how to guide conversations. Now his own network of friends is wide enough that usually he can quickly make a personal connection with people simply by suggesting a common friend.
5. Use your Rolodex wisely and only for the right person at the right time, for the right cause.
Several of the top venture capitalists who do deals with Nozad rarely hear from him. That’s very intentional. He knows the importance of valuing other people’s time. People notice when you waste their time. They respond to your emails when you honor their time.
6. Make sure you understand what the person you want help from has to gain from it.
Nozad understands motivations. He knew the venture capitalists he sold rugs to were always hunting for undiscovered treasures: talented entrepreneurs no one else had yet spotted. The entrepreneurs, likewise, were eager to mingle with potential backers. That was Nozad’s “in.”  He knew he could bridge both worlds.
7. Don’t create walls between your personal and professional lives. It is one big network of people.
Nozad starts most conversations very personally. How are the kids? How have you been? It is subtle, disarming, and endearing. Spend more time listening than you do talking. And you do that by asking questions and listening with genuine interest.
I’ve seen this trait in other successful networkers. They don’t exhaust themselves being slightly different personalities in work, family and social settings. They are just as personally helpful and at ease to a work colleague as they are to a family friend.
OK, so let me make this easy for you; here’s your $50 million cheat sheet summary:
1. Give.
2. Be real.
3. Compliment.
4. Find commonality.
5. Use your network sparingly.
6. Think WIIFT—What’s In It For Them.
7. Be authentically YOU, always.
“The richest people in the world look for and build networks,
everyone else looks for work.”
-Robert Kiyosaki
It’s well known that 80% of business opportunities are filled through networking. And if you eventually want to become as rich as a rug dealer… then networking is the skill you want to continually work on and master.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Rockstars

“I was constantly walking into crowds where no one had never heard of me and I needed to leave them 100 percent convinced.” Is that a Silicon Valley entrepreneur talking? Actually it’s rapper G-Eazy, reflecting on his journey on the eve of his entry to the Billboard chart with his new album, These Things Happen. “It was also hustling and connecting and making an impression.”
Embarking on a career in popular music is in many ways like starting a business. You develop a brand, a distinct identity in the marketplace, and try to get people excited about it. What can entrepreneurs learn from musicians about getting a new business off the ground?
The 10-Year Journey to Overnight Success
Any musician you’ve ever heard of has worked countless hours to master his or her instrument and has endured humiliation after humiliation in the form of small and apathetic audiences, discouraging label executives, and dismissive incumbents. It takes hard work, commitment and determination to succeed as a musician.
The same goes for people who want to start a business. Entrepreneurs can get impatient when all they hear about are overnight successes and young self-made billionaires. Overnight success stories make for good headlines. But they are misleading.
In both music and entrepreneurship you need to commit fully and decisively, and then stick it out through the long haul. You have to be willing to make personal sacrifices, and you have to be persistent in your pursuit of excellence.
When I interviewed super-producer Rick Rubin for an article about meditation, I asked him why so many musicians meditate. He told me meditation is good for musicians because it reinforces the lifestyle of consistent practice and discipline. People tend to focus on the inspiration aspects of the arts (and the inspiration aspect of entrepreneurship). 

What we don’t see is the tedious disciplined practice involved in translating that inspiration into a success in the marketplace.Persistence means overcoming the deeply personal pain of failures. We all know that you need to fail to learn. But what rockers can teach entrepreneur’s is that failing is like mourning the death of a loved one. Your business, like your art, is your baby. You are personally attached to it. You love it. It is part of who you are and its success is tied into your feelings of self-worth. How must Robin Thicke feel around now that his deeply personal album about his failed relationship with his wife sold only 530 copies in the UK in its first week? That’s how entrepreneurs feel every time they fail.
Musicians have been told their entire career that their babies are ugly, stupid, and boring. Jimi Hendrix was kicked out of every band he played in until he started his own. Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. It just means that it’s part of the deal.
The same goes in business. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz was passionate about his vision of bringing Italian coffee bar culture to the US. He approached 242 investors. 217 said, “No.” That’s 217 times that his baby was insulted. Then he couldn’t show a profit for three years. That’s rock star persistence.
Creative Adaptability
Charles Darwin said that it is not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those who can best manage change.
Rockers are masters of change, flexibility, and adaptability. Madonna, one of the only women in popular music to have a consistently successful career into her fifties, has done it by constantly changing and adapting. She didn’t lose her brand of empowered sexuality, but she changed with the times. In fact, she sometimes changed ahead of the times. Now making her thirteenth album, she’s getting today’s hottest producers to give her their most exciting tracks.

When U2 transitioned from their signature sound, epitomized on The Joshua Tree, to the dark electronic sound of Achtung Baby, they proved that they were agile. Likewise, Radiohead transitioned away from guitar-based songs after their hit album OK Computer to a more electronic sound for its follow-up, Kid A. It wasn’t easy to make the changes, but it paid off. Achtung Baby was a commercial smash for U2, selling 18 million copies, while Radiohead’s Kid A topped the Billboard chart, won the Grammy award for best alternative album, and went platinum.
Any team should be wary of abandoning its core strength to superficially adopt a trend. But that wasn’t the case with U2 and Radiohead. What they were doing was growing together. They were able to interrupt their habits of thought and their habits of action. They were innovating.
It’s not the strongest or most intelligent that survives but the one that is most adaptable to change. Startups need to keep changing if they are going to hold their customers’ interest, adapt to changing market, and outperform competitors.
Everyone is a Rapper
In both music and entrepreneurship you need powers of persuasion. You need to get people excited about what you’re doing so that they can give you money to keep doing it. You need to rap.
The original meaning of the word rap was talking. But it was more than that. It was your ability to talk smoothly, to talk yourself out of trouble, to use talking to get your way. It was a smart way of talking, a way of talking that impressed other people. Rapping was selling. That’s why rappers are such good entrepreneurs.
When rap started, there was no institutional support for the genre. So rappers learned salesmanship. Rap culture was about proving you were better than the rest. It was about distinguishing yourself and your originality above the crowd.
Startups need to do that. Just like rappers, they need to convince people that they are better and bolder than the rest. That they can rise to any challenge and circumstances. Entrepreneurs can learn from rappers that stepping up to the mic with confidence can go a long way.
Entrepreneurs can also learn from rockers to make an emotional connection to their audience through body language and stories. As I’ve written before, you can learn techniques that will strengthen the effectiveness of your communication.
But most importantly, rockers teach entrepreneurs the importance of finding your unique voice and expressing it. As an artist, you have to differentiate yourself from others. Doing well in business requires the same thing. To stand out, you need to put yourself on the line and express yourself with confidence and passion.
Nurture the Team

A startup company I once interviewed faced a situation where one partner wanted the company to always be small enough to all fit in an elevator. But the other partner wanted world domination. One wanted to be Zuckerburg, the other wanted to be Zingerman’s. It collapsed. Another company had a partner who didn’t feel like he got a fare share of the equity split. So he split, right as they were about to be approved for a grant on which he was the primary investigator. The grant fell through.
Partners are a major source of uncertainty. They are also the most important factor for your startup’s success. What can we learn from rockers about minimizing partner risk? Invest in the connection with your partners.
In 1995 Anthony Kiedis, singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was in rehab for heroin addiction. He was the singer of one of the biggest bands in the world, with a new album coming out and a tour to embark on. His band mates needed Kiedis to do his job.
Part of the rehab center’s recovery process was to invite friends and family for a group session. Flea, The Chili Peppers’ bassist, showed up. When the group session began, the therapist asked Flea, “How does it make you feel when Anthony’s out there using drugs and you have no idea where he is or if he’s ever going to come back?” Kiedis cringed in his seat. He figured Flea was going to rant about how mad he is that Kiedis is ruining all of their hard work. And he would be right.
But Flea burst into tears. “I’m afraid he’s going to die on me,” he sobbed. “I don’t want him to die.” Flea cared about Kiedis as more than a means to an end.
Truly great bands such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers treat each other like family. That’s where their resilience comes from. Flea wasn’t happy about what Kiedis’s behavior was doing for the band. But first and foremost he was worried about him as his friend.
The same goes for startups. Other people are not just there to get the work done. They are not disposable parts. If they are, the team will have zero resilience for when times get tough. Without a strong relational fabric, the team will collapse at the first bump in the road.
Why does caring matter so much? Because it brings out the best in others. It facilitates others by giving them the support they need so that they can contribute at their highest level. It also creates a safe environment for making mistakes and experimenting.
Caring comes with playfulness, which helps with burnout and also opens up the team’s resources and creativity. And caring increases loyalty. When band members look out for each other, they build a reservoir of goodwill that they tap into when times get tough.
Rock stars may not be eager for us to see them as business people. They want us to see them as loose and intuitive. They sell youth, and they need to represent. But if we look beyond the myth at the work that goes into their success, we can learn valuable lessons for how to start and grow all kinds of successful businesses.