Friday, April 17, 2015

A Single Finger Salute...

"No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he’ll keep comin’ back and back until one of you is dead."

                ~ Sam "Ace" Rothstein in Casino
                   (as played by Robert De Niro)

"So what motivated you to start OptiFuse", was the question from a local newspaper reporter.

Sitting before me on the other side of my desk was a feature writer from a local newspaper asking several questions of me for an upcoming article. 

I pondered the question for what seemed like a full minute, although the actual time was more likely 15 seconds.

"Revenge", I finally blurted out.

"Well... that’s an answer I don’t hear every day", she said, matter-of-factly."

I went on with a full explanation.

"Soon after leaving college, I landed a job as a local sales engineer with a company called Bussmann.  At the time, Bussmann was the largest manufacturer of fuses and fuse accessories in the world.

"I spent the next seven years increasing the sales in my region by approximately 1,000 percent literally adding millions of dollars in profits to the company’s bottom line.  I was working 60-70 hours a week for promises of better compensation down the road.  

"After several years of broken promises and excuses,  I decided it was time to leave the company and join up with a local electronics distributor who offered to sell me a percentage of the company in exchange for some ’sweat equity’.  This same supply company also happened to be a distributor of Bussmann products.

"As would be expected due to my experiences at Bussmann, the sales of fuse products at the distributor grew exponentially over the next 8 years to a point that the distributor was now the single largest distributor of Bussmann products in the western United States.

"This success did not go unnoticed at Bussmann.

"Several of the sales managers at Bussmann where becoming increasingly concerned with our market dominance and tried to place as many hurdles in front of us to impede our progress.

"Despite their efforts, we continued to grow their sales, so in desperation of keeping market control, the management at Bussmann decided to pull the plug and completely disfranchise our growing distributor, effectively stealing millions of dollars of business from us and reapportioning it to other distributors in the region."

The reporter was now sitting in front of me in disbelief.

"How could they get away with such a thing?" she queried.

"Unfortunately for us, the distribution contract that we signed gave them the exclusive right to pick and choose to who they wanted to sell their products... even though we had done an exemplary job for them as their distributor we had no say in the decision... it was all about politics and playing the corporate game.

"After the fateful meeting with their management team where they effectively fired us for doing too good of a job, I went back to my office and wrote a business plan to start a new fuse company from scratch called OptiFuse to compete directly against Bussmann.

"The road to success has been anything but easy.  We have been harassed, intimidated, and sued by Bussmann for daring to compete with them in the market. 

"But what the people at Bussmann don’t fully understand is that they have become OptiFuse’s metaphoric dragon to slay.

"Our entire team is motivated by our galvanized but one single goal... to do everything in our power to fight back at the playground bully.

"We may become bruised and bloodied... but we know that we will find a way to make better and more innovative products.  We listen to what our customers are telling us and hope to 'wow' them with better solutions and service.

"With every win, big and small, we believe that we are saluting our competition with our middle finger putting them on notice that they have simply messed with the wrong people."

Psychologists will tell us that true motivation doesn’t come from some wall poster with the headline "Team Work" or a saying on a tee-shirt telling us to "Just Do It".

Our most primal motivation comes not from catchy adages but rather from a sense of insecurity, from over compensating for feelings of unworthiness and inadequacies, and from a need to draw attention to one’s self.

Personal motivation, at the most basic level, is derived from the sum of our fears.  The fear of failure... the fear of abandonment... the fear of inadequacy...   

It’s no secret that many of the most successful people in this world came from a dysfunctional childhood or after a series of failures.

Somewhere along the way they developed a deeply personal and passionate ambition to prove themselves to others. 

Sometimes our best motivation comes from people telling us that we are unable to accomplish something... and so we set out to prove them wrong.

We’ll show them... we say to ourselves...

During his sophomore year at Laney High School in Chicago, Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team by his coach, Clifton "Pops" Herring (mostly due to the fact that Herring already had a full complement of 11 seniors and 3 juniors on his varsity squad).

Due to this setback, Jordan dedicated himself to playing basketball better and returned the following year to lead Laney High to a number one ranking and eventually a scholarship to the University of North Carolina.

Several years later, as Michael Jordan was being inducted into the basketball hall-of-fame, he asked that Pops Herring be present at the ceremony.  During his inductance speech, he reflected on the day he was cut from the varsity team, and how it motivated him throughout his entire career to do the hard work to consistently become better.

And that was the day, despite all of the success he has had over his career, Michael Jordan was finally able to wag his finger at his former coach and tell him, "Coach... you shouldn’t have cut me".

There are countless other examples of athletes, entrepreneurs, scientists, musicians, and entertainers who defied all odds to rise above the criticisms and their environments to achieve great success...

Those individuals didn’t work hard just to add a few zeros onto their bank balances... or because it brought them celebrity and fame... or to win a Nobel prize or an Oscar.

They became successful because they had something to prove to the naysayers... to their parents... to their siblings... childhood friends... teachers... coaches...

They willed themselves to success because for them failure wasn’t an option... nothing was going to stand in their way... they were going back to their high school reunion as a great success or not at all...

As leaders, it is our jobs to find out what it is that motivates the people around us... as individuals and as a part of our team...

If we are somehow able to align our mutual goals... and harness the energy... then there isn’t anything we can’t accomplish together.

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we are thankful that you are our accomplice by helping us to "stick it to the man"...  

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