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On Friday morning my eye caught this headline in the New York Post (May 13, 2011, p. 2): Empire’ Exodus–36% of under 30 New Yorkers plan to flee state. Goodness me.

Now, I like living in New York. I like having part of my company here. But, increasingly, there seems to be no good reason for small business to locate here or in any of New York’s business loathing, fellow-traveling states like California, New Jersey, Illinois, or Michigan, to name the most obvious. God bless all these states, but avoiding them is simply prudent common-sense, particularly for the parvenu entrepreneur.

Readers of this blog sometimes think I am a wailing Cassandra, but I say with Jack Webb on Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” And the facts are these: Businesses and ambitious youth should go and will go where they encounter fertile, fecund, ROI rich soil–free of excessive bureaucracy, de-incentivizing taxation, inefficient government, high living costs and intransigent unions.

The Post article cites the NY1/YNN-Marist survey, which finds almost a third of NY State residents, over all age categories, are making plans to exit for greener pastures right now. Such grim statistics bode no good for the economic future in NY and similar states. For it’s business salvation NY needs radical change.

Entrepreneurs are by nature optimistic and sunny and positive people. I love being one and I love being around them. However, successful entrepreneurs are also clear-eyed realists, and not all states in this wonderful US of A offer equally business-friendly environments for spawning small business success. (If you’re interested in other thoughts on this topic try posts of 4/26/11, 12/21/10, 4/13/10.) So good luck to NY from the depths of my worried, but well-meaning, small business heart.

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I was caught by a headline in the WSJ last week, titled, “Get Out Of My Way, You Jerk!” (2/15/11-Shirley S. Wang) The article is about the sidewalk equivalent of “road rage.” In the article, Dr. Leon James of the University of Hawaii, discusses the danger of the intermittent explosive disorder termed “sidewalk rage.” He has actually devised a way to measure this phenomenon called the Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale.

I’m a busy New Yorker. And New York is a walking town. I’ve lived here over 30 years and I am an aficionado of practical ways of navigating Manhattan most efficiently. I still ride the subways regularly, just as I did in my salad days as an actor. (I find that most times subways are the fastest, surest transport in New York.)

But I am also a wily and strategic walker when I am in New York. I have certainly experienced “sidewalk rage,” which is a dangerous thing for any salesman prior to a meeting or presentation. It just throws you out of sync and can leave you emotionally unfocused and concentration impaired. So, in addition to well-known techniques of deep breathing and letting go in such circumstances, I use some little practical tricks to remediate my semi-chronic vulnerability to this state, particularly when I’m running late. Here’s just one.

You are rarely not in a crowd when in mid-town Manhattan. So, when I am late as I come off Metro North at Grand Central Station, I pick the largest, fastest-moving man I can find and follow closely (about three feet behind) in his wake. When he veers in a different direction from my destination I switch to the next large, fast man going my way, much in the manner of a football running back following his left guard through the line. I avoid the awkwardness of a strict open field run and its real risk of knocking over old ladies and small children in my frantic urgency to make my next appointment.

Or, as John Florio says in SecondFruits, “If you will be a traveler, have always the eyes of a falcon, the ears of an ass, the face of an ape, the mouth of a hog, the shoulder of a camel, the legs of a stag…

Thanks, John.

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I’m a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club. (That’s only one of my eccentric personal hobbies.) I’ve been a huge fan of the Oz books since my mother read many of them to me when I was a boy. (Most people know only L. Frank Baum’s first book, “The Wizard of Oz“, but there are actually 40 marvelous, magical, beautiful books in this series.)

I love the Cowardly Lion. He reminds me so much of me. In the movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy confronts the Cowardly Lion and tells him he is nothing but a great big coward. The Lion’s reply is:

“You’re right, I am a coward! I haven’t any courage at all! I even scare myself.  Look at the circles under my eyes! I haven’t slept in weeks!”

Me too. For me to be an effective executive salesman for my company Corporate Rain International I need to slay this “fear” dragon each day. One of the things I do to cope with this fear I learned many years ago from a wonderful acting teacher I had in New York named Michael Howard.

Michael Howard spoke to my acting class one day about how to begin rehearsing a new scene. What he told us was to go immediately to the most risky, scary, personal place in the scene: that place that made us feel most fearful and exposed. This might be a spot that involved physical intimacy, like kissing, violence, or nudity. Or jealousy, rage, or cowardice. By facing the most dangerous part of the scene immediately the rest of the scene became more accessible, less fraught.

How do I apply this lesson in selling to my company’s potential clients at the c-suite level? By each day immediately doing that thing I most want not to do–by immediately making that call where I have the greatest fear of rejection, where my own feelings of cosmic inadequacy might be most called out and exposed–and taking this sweaty-palmed action the first thing in the day. I act as if I had courage and confidence and thereby have it in reality. I guess it’s kind of a business version of your inner mother telling you to eat your vegetables first. For me, it works to go daily and immediately toward my most fearful task.

So go to the danger. As the Cowardly Lion so insightfully sings: “What makes a king out of a slave? Courage!” Thank you L. Frank Baum.

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Albert EinsteinIt’s good to know where you’re going before you begin to go there.

My minister tells great stories. Here’s one. Supposedly true. It concerns Albert Einstein who was notoriously absent-minded. Einstein was taking a ride on the Metro North train out of New York. The conductor comes by to collect the tickets. Albert pats his pockets and can’t seem to find his ticket. The conductor recognizes him and tells Einstein not to worry about it. He goes through the rest of the train collecting tickets. On his way back he sees Professor Einstein on his knees on the floor frantically looking for his ticket. The conductor once again tells him not to worry, it’s alright if he can’t find his ticket. Albert Einstein looks up from the floor and says, “But I can’t remember where I’m going.”

There are many things I do poorly as an entrepreneur. I am a poor administrator.  I am impatient with meetings. I am not good with the quotidian details of spread sheets and day-to-day financial analysis. I am a poor technologist. My personal organization is frequently inchoate. And this is but a short list.

Nevertheless, I’ve led my firm, Corporate Rain International, for sixteen years. Probably the chiefest reason I’ve managed to get by is that I am very clear about where I want to go, who I want to be, who I want to have as clients, who I want as employees and associates, and what I want my brand to represent.

Harvard Business School I ain’t. For example, when I started out, I typed my bills on an old Underwood typewriter. Even then (1996) that pretty much classified me as a dinosaur. I knew nothing. But I very clearly did know where I wanted to be in five years, ten years, and fifteen years. I had a clear unalloyed personal goal. I knew where I wanted my journey to take me.

There are lots of ways to be a successful entrepreneur. The entrepreneurial pilgrimage I’ve chosen involves creating value in my life. Unlike many entrepreneurial colleagues, my ambition isn’t to be a master of the universe. Though I am successful one day at a time, money is also not it for me (though I’d love to be very rich). But those goals are also fine. (I’m a huge admirer of Donald Trump, though not remotely interested in being like him.) However, as naive a point as it is, it’s really necessary to know where you personally want to go if you are to get there. Thanks, Albert.

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