An employee in my company is a big fan of comedian Kevin Hart. She told me she follows him on SnapChat. First, let me confess that I've barely heard of Hart and would never attempt to navigate SnapChat. That's why I surround myself with millennials at work--they're always enlightening me.
This employee happens to be familiar with all the speaking engagements I do related to entrepreneurship and leadership, and she brought up Hart in that context. She said that on SnapChat, Hart often talks about the responsibility of sharing lessons he's learned, now that he's successful. It sounds like he views it as the kind of good deed that Jews refer to as a mitzvah. She wondered if I felt the same way. Absolutely, I said.
If I can shave a few miles off someone else's road, I feel I owe it to them to try. It's an obligation that comes with the territory, in the same way that providing guidance is the responsibility of every parent. You tell your kids, essentially, to "Do as I say," because you want to spare them some of the time and hardship associated with doing as you did. If you can push them a year, six months, or just three minutes ahead, then you've performed a good deed. Maybe you won't increase their IQ, but you can raise their maturity quotient. So that's why I believe in doing speaking engagements--and these columns. What's really interesting to me is people's response when I spill the "secrets" to my company's success.
Let me put it this way: Nobody's stopped me on the street to say they followed my advice and boy, did it work out great. I often wonder what people are thinking as they hear me describe at conferences how we've built our company without outside financing; how it began slowly, then accelerated to 30 percent growth a year; how we focus on problem-solving, longterm decision-making, and keeping customers, employees and suppliers satisfied. I tell groups how well direct sales have worked for us because middlemen are too often muddlemen; and how we have an in-house analytics team that rivals plenty of independent firms. It slices and dices an incredible amount of information, from ranking the performance of every image we use in ads down to fractions of dollars brought in, to tracking which carrier has the best on-time delivery rate, to keeping up with the millennials in our workforce (586 at last count). They also track all "unlikes" and "unfollows" so that we can know exactly what gets our Facebook and Twitter
friends' knickers in a twist. We already know that our name puts some people off, but we also know that it offends far fewer people than it entertains.
I don't know whether any budding entrepreneur has taken my advice to heart. Maybe the company name is the only thing people hear when I'm speaking; maybe it leads them to conclude I can't be serious. Or maybe they assume a "yes, but" position, focusing only on what's different about their situation. What I do know is that people hear what I and every speaker say through their individual set of preconceived notions, and that's harder than the best HEPA filter to penetrate.
But on the chance I'll plant a seed in someone's mind that will eventually bear fruit, I'll keep trying. After all, we're a company that's in it for the long term, and there are plants that take a century to bloom.
And now, because I try to listen to my employees, I'm going to watch a video of the 5-2 Kevin Hart giving golf tips to LeBron James. I don't play golf or basketball, but I just might learn something.