John F. Dini is a consultant and coach to hundreds of business owners, CEOs and Presidents of companies with over 11,000 hours of delivering face-to-face, personal advice to entrepreneurs through The Alternative Board®. Dini is the author of three books including Beating the Boomer Bust and 11 Things You Absolutely Need to Know About Selling Your Business, now in its second edition. He is a serial entrepreneur, but prefers the term “chronically unemployable.” John holds a BS in accounting from Rutgers University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University, and has five additional certifications in exit planning, business brokerage, behavioral analysis, medical practice management, facilitation and coaching.
He writes numerous articles on small business topics for newspapers, magazines, and in his own blog “Awake at 2 o’clock?” at www.awakeat2oclock.com. John speaks frequently to business groups and national associations, and is an 11-year member of Jim Blasingame’s “Braintrust,” appearing regularly on “The Small Business Advocate,” a nationally syndicated radio program, as an expert in the issues of small business ownership. His latest book, Hunting in a Farmer’s World: Celebrating the Mind of an Entrepreneur, was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 2013).
Here I an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of John. To read all of Part 1, please click here.
* * *
Morris: Before discussing Hunting in a Farmer’s World, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?
Dini: Clearly my Dad. He was in industrial packaging sales. Every night at the dinner table was a seminar in how to solve customer problems, and do it ethically in an environment where ethics were too easily forgotten. (Think Mad Men) He was a high performer, but his standards came before everything else. It’s how I learned that sales was all about helping people with their problems. If he didn’t have a solution, he would direct the customer to a competitor. In turn, the customer would look for future opportunities to do business with him.
Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?
Dini: This is better answered in the negative. I’ve never had a mentor. I often wonder how things could have turned out if I’d had the opportunity to work under someone who would have tutored me. Because of that, I try hard to focus on finding out what my employees want for their futures, and allowing them the flexibility to pursue their personal visions through or alongside their work.
Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.
Dini: In my early 30s, I quit my sales job in New Jersey to start a company, with financing promised by a customer. He didn’t come through, teaching me a valuable lesson about making sure of things before I act on them. I was at loose ends when my former employer called. They had been acquired, and the new owners offered me an equity position if I could turn around their California operation. I’ve signed my own paycheck since.
Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?
Dini: I dropped out of college about halfway to a degree in English. When I returned to night school, I majored in accounting. My English courses all became electives, so I had four years of night classes in required accounting courses. I never wanted to be an accountant, but understanding how a business works always starts with the numbers. Having that type of long-term immersion ingrained a knowledge base that pays off every day.
Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you when to work full-time for the first time? Why?
Dini: I think the whole concept of a career path escaped me. I took jobs because I had to eat, and advanced because I had talent; but the idea of setting a long term goal, or of thinking about the next step never occurred to me. Once I became a business owner, I struggled with strategy and planning to reach objectives. I do more of it now, but it still isn’t instinctive. A mentor would hopefully have taught me how better to step back and consider the bigger picture.
Morris: Of all the films that you have seen, which – in your opinion – best dramatizes important business principles? Please explain.
Dini: I recently came across a presentation from the Army War College using the film Twelve O’Clock High (1954) with Gregory Peck as an illustration of how a leader has to change roles as his team develops. It was excellent, and I’m using it in a management course that I teach.
Morris: From which non-business book have you learned the most valuable lessons about business? Please explain.
Dini: I’ve read Any Rand’s Atlas Shrugged five times. I return to it periodically to remind myself that other people (outside my family) don’t have a right to appropriate my efforts. I still do far too much work for free, but I like to help people and that’s entirely my choice.
Morris: Here are several of my favorite quotations to which I ask you to respond. First, from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Chin:
“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”
Dini: Absolutely. One of the nice things about being an entrepreneur is that I don’t have to grab credit for what the team accomplishes. As a business coach, it’s always a thrill when an owner tells me “I wasn’t available, and my people took care of it without me!” It’s tough getting employees to believe that you are just as happy, or happier, to see them succeed without you.
Morris: From Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”
Dini: There is truth in that, but I’ve practiced a habit of saying “I have an idea,” rather than “I have a great idea.” Once you’ve declared your own idea as terrific, you are immediately disposed to defend it. Most ideas could use a bit of improvement, and that comes easier when people don’t feel they are attacking something you’ve put a lot of emotional stock in.
Morris: From Richard Dawkins: “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”
Dini: Well, as Huey Lewis said, “Sometimes bad is bad.” Dangerous ideas can bring surprising results, but often we don’t like the surprise. Hindsight lets us view the dangerous ideas that worked as obvious, especially if they grow into orthodoxy and clichés, but we tend to forget the ones that were just bad ideas.
* * *
To read all of Part 1, please click here.
John cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:
His website link
Exit Map link
Hunting in a Farmer’s World link
John’s Amazon page link