linksbovenSo Gunnar, what was it like running businesses for someone worth a half billion dollars with the most earned master degrees in the United States?

As some of you know, previously, my career was spent running several businesses in various sectors for a successful businessman in Portland who is yes… worth a half billion dollars… all at the same time.

These businesses ranged from a hotel in a ghost town, gourmet food and gift stores, wine tasting cafe stores, and a large regional chain of bookstores.

At first, it was quite overwhelming to be able to run such a wide variety of businesses. But, the lessons I learn were invaluable and I believe have led to many of the opportunities I have today to share with others that which I have learned all over the world.

Working for someone of such stature is certainly a great opportunity to glean valuable insight to what it takes to manage a series of businesses in this day and age. In this, it is one thing to have head knowledge of profit and loss management, it is entirely another to have street knowledge.

So, what did I learn?

1. Be prepared – At any given time, you can receive a phone call wanting to meet. In this, you must not only just know your business data… you better own that business data. Meeting with people at this calibre requires that you are prepared. They will be asking you a question, while already knowing what the next 5 questions are they will ask you.

2. Be honest – Hey look, people like this didn’t get to where they are overnight. You cannot fool them. You also must realize that many times with people like this, they are surrounded by people that only tell them what they think they want to hear. Therefore, often times padding them from the true reality of how things really are. As a great boss once told me… a good manager always brings bad news first.

3. Be passionate – I always reflected long and hard after my meetings with the owner and wondered… what was he thinking as he sat and watched me bang on the tables, throw my arms in the air, and speak with such passion about the business? Life is too much mono-tone. Be passionate about what you are doing. It genuinely shows that you in fact… care about what you are doing. Of course, be respectful too and mindful of the surroundings.

4. Listen – Are you kidding me? Listen to what they are saying and let it challenge the way you think. You may not always agree with it, but you WILL grow from it. With this, as you listen to them, seek also to understand the language they speak. This will help you immensely down the line in best communicating with them in an effective manner.

5. Ask questions – Let’s face it, you are sitting in front a wealth of knowledge. Don’t let an opportunity go by without asking a question about business philosophy, or even for guidance on a certain situation. Too often, we think this reflects a weakness when quite frankly, it reflects that you are teachable and are of a posture to learn. Recognize the audience you have been given and don’t lose the opportunity to learn.

6. Be ahead of the curve – Seek to understand emerging trends in your market. In this, you may just find yourself in a place to influence the influencers. Don’t kid yourself, if you do the other things right on this list, it may just buy you the personal capital with the boss to have their trusted ear, therefore establishing yourself as a thought leader and a very critical influencer to one that has the ability to make things happen.

7. Know your role – Hey look, understand your place and don’t let ego drive you into the place of us versus them. You have been positioned in your role for a reason. Perform it well. Be faithful in the little things.

8. Communicate Up – Being that I was one person away from the top with regards to who I reported to, I always told those that worked for me the following: “Get to me so I can get to them before he can get to them and have them get to me.” Communicate up by offering constant bullet point updates on all things related to the business. Anticipate what they will ask and get to them before they ask it. Never let them get to you first.

9. Articulate clearly – A great author/speaker, Marcus Buckingham once coined the phrase… “clarity is the antidote to anxiety”. Think about that for a second… minute… or hour. Earlier, I said be passionate. I also said be prepared. While these are extremely critical, don’t let them get in the way from you clearly articulating the message or narrative in response or with communicating up.

Understand that often times, you are not the only one reporting to them. In this, they don’t have all day to decipher what you are really saying. Know the language they speak, and articulate your reporting/responses accordingly. This is not about you. This is about them.

Now, I am quite certain that I could add a lot more to this list. But, as I look back at those years and seek to glean basic lessons I learned… these are at the top.

As I find myself now with the amazing opportunity to travel the world and offer social media strategy workshops and consulting, this knowledge and experience of working for someone of this nature has become critical to me.

However, I will also say this… whether you work for someone of this stature or not, the lessons learned are really the same no matter the stature. But sadly, as I work with many businesses, the little things like this are not often as important to those running them.

Are you listening for the lesson? Are you adapting to the culture language you find yourself in? Are you doing your due diligence to not only just know the data, but also own the data?

It is a tough economy out there, but it doesn’t need to be. You make of it what you put into it and that’s where you will either rise to the top or just dwell with the rest of them.

But, if you have ears to hear and have a posture that is teachable and you are willing to apply these lessons… guess what? In a bad economy or not… my money is on you!

If you would like to speak with me regarding my workshops and consulting services, please email me at:

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