Trapeze Moments in Business


One of the most common drivers of success is how we handle Trapeze Moments in business. All too often the most sensible response is the wrong one.

A couple years ago we were looking to publish Making Money Is Killing Your Business, our first book. It was in the hands of the largest business book publisher in the world. As I learned what the contract would look like, I discovered what a lousy deal every author gets with giant publishers. We would lose ownership of the book to the publisher, get paid a tiny fraction of the revenue, and not see any of it for up to 18 months.

But the alternative was equally uninviting. If we didn’t let the giant publisher own the book, we would have to start our own publishing company with no knowledge of the industry, give up on distribution through all traditional bookstores and spend at least $25,000 on design, layout, websites, printing, and fulfillment.

Two years ago publishing a book yourself was an even scarier option than today – it was a generally new way of doing things. Doing a deal with a giant would save us the $25,000 we didn’t have, and get the book into all major brick and mortar and internet book channels immediately.

We had a decision to make. We believed in our book and that it would have a major impact for small and local business owners worldwide for decades to come, long after a giant publisher would have lost interest in it. But we had no clue how to publish a high-end hard back book and get it out to the world around us. And we didn’t have $25,000 to risk on printing thousands of copies of something that might sell less than 100 copies.

Decisions Based on Where You Want to Be
This was a Trapeze Moment for us. A Trapeze Moment is one of those times in a business where the only way to get to the next place in your business is to let go of something you’re hanging on to for dear life. We had been profitable for a couple years and were “hanging on” to that with a death grip. The last thing we wanted to do was go backwards again and throw another $25,000 at this business.

But businesses don’t grow by hanging on to what they’ve got. They grow by making decisions based on where they want to be, not on where they are. If we make decisions based on where we are, where do we think we’ll be next year? The same place – on the treadmill.

So we dove in once again, let go of profitability, borrowed $25,000, started a publishing company from scratch with no knowledge of the industry, and printed thousands of copies of our book. A year later Making Money Is Killing Your Business was rated #1 Business Book of the Year by NFIB, not because it sold a million copies, but because they believe it was the book that had the greatest impact that year. That was what we were shooting for – a book that transformed businesses, not just an interesting read.

Risks Create Rewards
Two years later we’re into our second printing and book sales are increasing every month, something the giant publishers said could never happen after the first year. The book has been translated to Chinese and is selling well in China. Other translations are on the horizon. Because the revenue deal is so bad with giant publishers, we would have to sell 100,000+ books through them to equal the profit we have realized from the first printing. And we would still not own the book.

As the book gains momentum, we are glad we made the decision to start our own publishing company. Others are now coming to us to publish their books and we have three more of our own already in the works. And publishing isn’t even our core business, just something we did because we had to in order to keep control of a book that is central to driving 3to5 Clubs forward throughout the world.

Leap Forward
Every business has Trapeze Moments. It’s scary to let go of the one we’re hanging on to, do a backflip and trust that as we reach out the next trapeze will be there. But it’s what business owners do. They make decisions, not based on where they are, but where they want to be.

What Trapeze Moment are you facing right now? Make the decision based on where you want to be, otherwise you’ll end up where you are again next year – on the treadmill.

Make the leap!

Why Purell is Bad for Your Business

Eat Dirt. Be Strong.

I walked into the bread shop and there it was – a Purell hand sanitizer dispenser on a pedestal right in the middle of my path; not up against a wall somewhere, but standing like a security guard five feet inside the entrance, loudly reminding me that life is full to the brim of things that just might go wrong. Dodging that sad monument to the sterile life I realized it was symbolic of so many things that keep us from being successful.

Hand sanitizers may kill your germs, but the hand-sanitizer mindset is a deadly germ-ridden disease for business owners.

The hand-sanitizer mindset is so logical. Why wouldn’t you want clean hands? Are you looking for trouble? Do you want to invite sickness? Shouldn’t a business owner have the same safe, secure view of their business? Wouldn’t you want a business that is all cleaned up, sterilized from potential trouble and running without risk of sickness?

Two big problems with this mindset:

  1. When you focus all your energy on mitigating risk, you also remove the opportunity for reward.
  2. When you focus all your energy on mitigating risk, you can never remove it – it’s still there in spades.

Removing Reward
Outside of winning the lottery, which has the same odds as getting hit by lightning, great reward doesn’t come without being willing to take a risk. Living without risk means living without significant reward. The desire to live without the possibility that bad things could happen ensures that nothing much of significance will happen either. Living without risk condemns us to the great unwashed “middle” where nothing remarkable happens.

Removing Risk
You can’t – that’s the sad truth. People who live focused on removing risk, never do. A friend of mine told of good friends of his who were looking for the safest place in the world to retire to in 1980. After a year of research, in 1981 they moved from the U.S. to a bucolic set of islands. Six months later war broke out all around them and 1,000 people died in the Falkland Islands war between Argentina and Great Britain.

No matter how much you sanitize your life and business, you can’t completely remove risk, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. I know someone who used skin sanitizers to remove risk so much that it affected their immune system. The only cure was to go cold turkey for many months with no sanitizers at all so the good germs (reward) could grow again.

The hand-sanitizer mindset in business has at least the following negative results, along with some you’ll come up with on your own:

A hand-sanitizer mindset:

  1. Kills the good germs (reward) as well as the bad (risk). When we remove risk, we also remove reward.
  2. Reminds us to live defensively and reactively, not proactively and with forward movement.
  3. Dries things up – destroys the creative, innovative part of us.
  4. Creates co-dependency. When the good germs are gone, the need for the sanitizer continues to increase all the time.

Sanitized living creates victims, not strong fighters.

There is an epidemic of allergies among young children. A 10 year study found that one of the biggest causes was that we were keeping our kids too clean, keeping them from confronting risk and developing the strong immune systems that would allow them to function in a healthy way in the world around them.

Our kids need to eat dirt in order to become strong! Your business is no different. If you’re business is set up to run without risk, you’re going to experience a 40 year run on the treadmill with no chance of building a strong, healthy business that runs without you.

The irony of it all – you’re the Purell sanitizer that keeps your business from growing up healthy!

Why do we crave the Purell approach in business? Because the bankrupt Industrial Age mindset we’re all suffering from taught us that the highest values in life were safety and security. Achieving safety and security as the OBJECTIVE ensures we will achieve nothing remarkable. The highest values in your life should be to live a life of significance, to be the creative business owner you were meant to be and be fully committed to building a business in support of your Ideal Lifestyle. You won’t get that without risk.

Eat Dirt. Be Strong.