Martin Brossman – About going into business for myself

Martin Brossman
Martin Brossman

I think my passion for small business really started with my father. One of the greatest joys of his career was the feeling of independence he experienced while working as a management consultant. His rate of pay was a hundred dollars per day, which was a big deal at the time. Another benefit to his independent job was that we got to spend time together. I was able to help him perform one of his job duties by assembling manuals, which is where I observed his passion for independent work. He enjoyed the feeling of being in charge of his own fate, even though he was responsible for everything associated with his business.

Even though these early experiences with my father planted the seeds of independent work in my mind, I realized I needed to get some work experience under my belt before that route would become feasible. During a period of time working as a manager of Radio Shack, I found myself wanting more out of life than that position could offer. As I wondered where to go next, it didn’t take long for me to zero in on IBM, because it seemed like the premier company to work for at the time. I soon discovered that my target position was laden with prerequisite work.

From the time I set my sights on IBM, it took me over four years to reach my goal. I attended classes at Wake Technical Community College and got accepted into a co-op program with IBM field service. By this point, my enthusiasm was running high, so I contacted IBM’s field service manager, Don Cate, repeatedly. I gave him updates about what I was learning and experiencing about every six months or so, saying “Hi, Don, I want you to know I’ve learned these skills since we last spoke, so when you hire me, I’ll be ready for you.”

Don finally answered my call one day, saying, “Martin, I’m either going to have to hire you or call the police. There’s just no other way about it!” I was understandably upset to hear that response, so I said, “Don, I really want to work there, but I don’t mean to be a burden to you, I only want to keep you updated.” He surprised me by chuckling, “no, I’m really calling you to give you a job. I want to bring you in on the project. I know we’re going to find a place for you after the project is over because I’ve never known anyone to pursue a job at IBM so relentlessly.”

Well, after seven years, I discovered that the corporate world was not right for me. IBM’s Human Resources offered to administer personality tests, so I took one of their Myers-Briggs type tests. The person who interpreted my results pointed out that for all the indicators of 90% of the IBM MERS, I did not overlap any of the points. These test results confirmed my feeling that I didn’t fit in that environment. I realized I had been suppressing my natural predilection toward independent thinking by working at IBM.

With this newfound clarity, I began studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming. While I was helping the teacher demonstrate techniques, one of my classmates noticed that I had a gift for coaching. She said that I seemed to have a talent for guiding people and helping them get what they want, and others in the room agreed with her. What a novel idea, I thought. In 1990-1991, when I began pursuing the idea, there were no certification programs devoted to personal or business coaching that I could find. However, my interest was piqued, so I started looking for people who were making a living as a coach.

I found some personal coaches and business coaches, and I hired them to teach me the ropes. I also remembered that my customers at IBM had often commented that the best part about working with me wasn’t my helping them with their computer problems, it was the advice I gave them about their lives. These customers’ comments gave me the validation I needed to see value in following this new path. It dawned on me that I have a good ear for hearing what people need to do next in order to move forward in their lives and I have a real passion for helping people live their dreams.

If you’re going to live your dreams, you have to make a good living to support those dreams. That’s what drove me to becoming a success coach. In 1995, I left IBM to start out on my own, using my side PC business to keep me afloat until I felt confident enough to sell it to a gentleman who maintained it for many years before he retired, having raised several children on its income.

Once I sold my side business, I devoted myself to building my business life coaching practice, which I call “success coaching.” My approach is based on the idea that real success comes from having integrity in both your personal life and your business life. I focused first on small business owners because they are closest to my heart and my practice grew from there. Here’s why I love working with small business owners: often in a large corporation, people can get lost in their efforts to manage the perception of some perceived indicators versus actually serving the customer who’s currently in front of them. The process of having to create real value for your individual small business customers creates a clear level of integrity. For example, if you own an ice cream shop, you’ve got to deliver a consistent quality of ice cream and service to keep customers happy enough that they’ll want to keep coming back and buy it from you again.

What’s so appealing to me about small and micro businesses is the intrinsic integrity involved in the enterprise. To illustrate what I mean, let’s pretend you have a coffee shop. No matter what kind of person you are, if you don’t deliver an honest cup of coffee and follow through with the integrity of taking care of your customers, you’ll go out of business. This is a grounding type of phenomenon that doesn’t occur as easily in the corporate world, only in micro or small businesses. I innately understand the dynamics and integrity of the small business world much better than how to manage a corporation’s stockholders’ short-term perceptions.

What’s more important than actually delivering a great product? What is best for the customer and then charging a fair rate that matches the value. So it’s a win-win for them, a win-win for me, in the sense of, I’ve got to make enough profit to keep going, getting involved in my clients’ businesses, working for many years on my practice. Then around 2006, I realized how much I love training.

Around this time, my friend David Williams was teaching around the state in the small business centers, and I started joining him on his trips. We had a great time together and I really enjoyed myself. At the end of one of the classes, I told him that I loved taking care of the participants and teaching them, and I could tell that he loved it, too. I remarked that I’d like to become more involved, so when he moved on to do other things, he let me take over the business of teaching and training. It felt like a gift to me, to be able to teach all over the state at the small business centers. I realized how critical it is to serve these small communities; we start from the ground up.

I’ve been teaching and training since 2008, and I’ve learned so much about what a wonderful state I live in. In keynote addresses all around the United States, I’ve spoken about what I’ve learned from my experiences teaching in North Carolina. I’ve seen many solutions arise from people falling in love with their communities, finding what’s great about them, and encouraging folks to buy from local small businesses instead of big corporations. My core mission became clear after doing a lot of personal development work, looking at what I wanted to commit my life to. Because being on this planet, focused on my needs alone, just being here to serve my own self-interests, didn’t seem meaningful enough to keep me interested.

It just didn’t. It’s like, “okay, then I get more toys, then they get things, is that it?” Not that I don’t enjoy technology and toys, of course I do, but that’s not enough. After I realized I needed more, I crafted the mission that oversees all of my life, which is to help people live lives that they love so much that on their own deathbed, when they reflect back over their entire life, they’re literally moved to tears by the life they live. The quality of their life was so exceptional, outstanding, beautiful, and fulfilling that they’re moved to tears by the life they lived. That only happens by giving to others. It doesn’t happen by just serving yourself. That’s the core mission of my life. I implement this through helping individuals, helping towns, helping businesses, helping communities, and having the gift of being part of their world.

Hear the full story in this

Going Beyond Conflict Resolution is Embracing Conflict as a Doorway to New Opportunities

Conflict ResolutonThe bottom-line cost to avoiding conflict is tremendous, but few people are taught how to be effective with conflict. My introduction to the subject surfaced just out of college when I discovered I did not have sufficient tools to deal with conflict on the job.   Promoted to manager of a retail store with one of the highest levels of shoplifting in the city, I decided I’d better learn about conflict pronto.

That was the start of my training in the martial art of Aikido, which views physical conflict as a state of imbalance. It teaches that we become stronger in the process of transforming conflict. In Aikido, instead of trying to be stronger than your attacker, you come from a centered place and then meet them, blend with them and ultimately lead them to a place that does little or no harm to the attacker. You are responsible for your own well-being and that of the attacker. When I mapped these principles on to the conflicts that occurred in my retail store, I discovered that I not only resolved the conflicts but also developed more loyal customers and trusted friends.

Later when I joined IBM, I had become so adept at handling conflict that a manager from upstate New York flew in to meet the customer service rep—me– who “liked having people yell at him and could save large contracts.”

So what are the core principles I discovered?

1. Understand their upset.

Treating conflict with calm controlled behavior is like putting gasoline on a fire. If you have ever been really upset and someone kept telling you to calm down, what did it do? Yes, you need to come from a centered, grounded place, but you need to move into their world to understand that their concern is real for them. The quicker you can validate it in an authentic way, the quicker you can move them to a more harmonious win-win solution.

2. Get clear on your commitment.

Are you committed to looking good? Being right? To winning? If so, you are almost guaranteed to lose. More productive commitments might be enhancing the relationship, giving the best service, or finding the gem of value in every criticism. Of course when you’re upset or rattled by a conflict it’s hard to remember what you are committed to. I recommend the Aikido technique of breathing deeply, becoming centered by putting your attention on your center of balance (about 2 inches below the navel).

3. Enter their world.

Next blend with your opponent to see through their eyes and allow yourself to become concerned to approach their concern. You truly validate their issue by understanding it, not justifying or giving “good reasons.” From there, with a clear commitment, work with them to create a new solution that aligns with your commitment and addresses their concern.

4. Assume positive intention.

Stay engaged with them until it is resolved. This requires you to develop the ability to be with other people’s upset and not lose your own commitment.   At IBM there was a client who was so hard to deal with that they passed her on to me. She was a small, aggressive woman with great influence in many departments. When I came in she would meet me part way and start yelling about the current problem. “How can you work for a company that builds junk like this!” I would simply start listening, but really listening like I wanted to be part of the story. One observer said that when she yelled at me she would be shaking up and down and it almost looked like I was doing the same while listening to her. As she continued complaining I would ask if there was anything else–and there always was. Then, surprisingly, after a few minutes of this she would suddenly get quiet, turn her head to the side, and ask cheerfully, “Do you want a Coke?” I would say yes, adding that while she was getting it for me I would start working on the machine. The account was saved and I managed it for several years.

By avoiding dealing with conflict we miss building character. We miss the chance to transform an adversary into a loyal customer. And we miss the deepened relationships that can be found on the other side of a conflict when we choose to do more than manage conflict and actually embrace it. Don’t miss those opportunities!

c2014 –Martin Brossman – (919) 847-4757 – Martin offers professional development training on this and other topics that can be found by going here.

Business Coaching: You need mud and guts to build a log cabin

Log Cabin - Martin Brossman

Photo by Anora McGaha

Moving from salaried to self-employment often takes some core behavioral changes.

In my business coaching practice over the years I noticed a pattern with very smart salaried professionals who left the corporate world and went into business for themselves.  They generally would not know where they had to have their work close to an exact fit and where they could fill in later, having a plan for refining that area when needed.

Carrying over corporate workplace “rules”

My observation was that there is a sort of unconscious legacy from the employer-employee brand of productivity. When you are an employee on a fixed salary, your employer does not mind if you work 40 hours on a project or 80 hours on it since it costs them the same. But when you are the business you can’t run a business that way and succeed.

Part two of this corporate carry-over is not realizing how much time in a “day job” is spent avoiding the possibility of criticism. I was working with a newly self-employed client who got their first very bad review on-line and was devastated by it. I told them this was the best thing that could happen to them because learning how to respond and learning how to stay centered in the presence of real criticism occurs to help us develop the muscle of recovering faster the next time.

These two examples are common challenges of someone transferring from working for someone else to working for oneself. Your time really is MONEY and if you want to have it all together you will miss the market. A mentor said to me once when I was reviewing my own shortcomings,” What do you have when you have your stuff all together? Tightly packed stuff ready to blow.” Look at history, the more you study famous people that made a real difference, the more you will find some aspect of their life that was just not all together. And chances are if they had it all together they may have never had the time to make the difference they did.

If you build it you’ll need mud

To build a log cabin in the 1800’s you had to use clay or mud to fill in the cracks, and you were always at risk of the elements destroying it. It took courage to build something like this that could be taken away quickly with a big enough storm. If you wanted the wood to fit perfectly without the need of mud it would take an infinite amount of time to find the perfect logs. Not to mention the rock foundation needed to make sure the logs were kept off the ground to keep them from rotting (very bad at the bottom of your log cabin).

Now I am not encouraging you to just be quick and sloppy; I simply want you to choose what level of precision is needed to move fast enough in your business to not lose all the competitive advantage of getting your offering or product out. One of the points that Bill Davis of Team Nimbus always promotes is that the biggest competitive advantage of a small business is speed of execution. If you want to change how you greet people on the phone, for example, you just do it. But if McDonalds wants to change their greeting it will take some time at a global level.

The secret recipe for guts

Many ex-corporate people damage their competitive advantage because they don’t understand how their corporate jobs may have taught them skills that are counter-productive to being self-employed.  Also, maneuvering through the new transparent social media-driven marketplace, they can be derailed by public criticism on the Web. This is where guts or courage will grow if you let it. Courage is developed in healthy people by taking thousands of micro risks, not just big reckless ones. You almost need to get some real criticism where you get knocked off your horse enough so you can develop the muscle to see what occurred, learn fast from it and get back on track.

Changing your vocabulary for success

So where are you trying to “get it just right” instead of getting it good enough so you can focus on the few key items that need to be very accurate?  Instead of saying I can never be “that expert”, ask yourself what smaller part of your field you can claim some expert knowledge in. (This does not mean I am encouraging more self-proclaimed experts, we seem to have plenty of them.)

Here are two questions to help recharge your goals. Where can you contribute a useful perspective from your own experience that may be of value to someone else instead of trying to be an all-knowing expert? Are you taking enough risk that someone might criticize you? if not, you are probably not playing big enough to make a business successful.

I’ve heard that people at the end of life do not say, ” I wish I did not do X. They say, ” I wish I had at least tried and even failed X, Y and Z”. My friend, Pat Howlett, has a gem of advice for new businesses:  fail fast and fail often. To that I’ll add, don’t be reckless, but alter your relationship to the word failure. This will make you more powerful than those who try to “admit failure”. Saying “ I failed” is different than ” I am a failure”. The former can be said with power: “I failed, what can I learn, let’s move on.”


by Martin Brossman – Success Coach – Call for your coaching session (919) 847-4757