I actually started writing very short stories in the fifth grade. My dad was so proud of that, and remembered the names of the lead characters for the rest of his 86 years.
I was also the school radio announcer, and went on to a first career in broadcast news. Back then you wrote your own news copy—no excuses, no writer's block. You were on-air in ten minutes and had to come up with polished copy in that time. The experience was invaluable, and to this day the actual writing part comes quickly to me.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a little town in western New York state, and I went to prep school in New England. I knew rural life, and I also knew prep life in Connecticut. I think this background has given me a wide view of people and places, which is very helpful in writing, and in navigating life.
What to Do with Your Great Business Idea is your first book—what did you write before that?
As with my geographical background, my writing history is all over the map. I wrote radio and television news and features, advice columns, and various published articles about a wide range of topics. I always wanted to write a book, but whenever I sat down to do it, nothing happened. It wasn't time yet.
What's the story behind your book?
In my work as an executive coach I have seen so many business owners over the years who have great talent and drive, but who didn't have anything like this book to guide them. So many entrepreneurs wing it, at least at the start, and I believe the mistakes they make because of that are part of the reason for the high attrition rate for small business startups. There's a lot of trial and error when you're winging it, and that can cripple or derail your business.
It occurred to me one day that I had a number of books in my brain just waiting to be written from watching real-life business owners succeed and fail, so I started at the beginning—what to do when that great business idea lights you up. It's such a seductive rush, and in the glow of that vision, good decision-making can go right out the window. It's a kind of falling in love experience; enthusiasm sometimes overpowers clarity, and all kinds of decisions get made that you have to live with for a long time. So many of the decisions we make about our businesses when we first set them up are fateful like that for the whole course of the enterprise, so this beginning time, when must of us know the least about what we're getting into, is a very, very important time to get things right.
So my idea for this book is to be a voice for some joyful clarity in the middle of all that emotional enthusiasm, all that drive to do something that can lead to impetuous or uninformed action. I've seen the impulses that arise in that situation lead people over a lot of business and financial cliffs, and I'd like the book to be a stabilizing influence in such an important time.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The magic of what comes out. I may be sitting down to write about a particular thing or topic, but when I see the actual words appear on the screen, I can feel surprised or moved or engaged. To keep that freshness, I never labor for long over a piece of writing that didn't quite work, but I might come back at it with new energy or perspective later.
What do your readers mean to you?
There's a part of me that writes just to write, because that's what I love to do and need to do. That in itself feels good, even if what I write will never be read by others. But, when someone else really connects with my work, that is a deep satisfaction all the way down in my gut. It's a glow. Often they have stories about how they were helped by what I wrote, and it's great to have made a difference. I feel on-purpose when something I write can be a step in someone's ladder.
What's coming up next?
I am writing my second book for entrepreneurs about how to create a happy workplace, both for the owner and for the people who work there. A recent Gallup survey says over 70% of workers in America are dissatisfied with their jobs. That is a horrendous statistic, and it represents a tremendous lack of connection between people and their work. We spend so much time working—to be there without happiness is unacceptable! I believe we are born to experience joy in our lives, to be connected and engaged with what we do, and to generally experience happiness as a way of life. This failure of connection in the workplace must be remedied.
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This is the book for everyone who has a great business idea and wonders what to do with it. Should you act on it and start a business or not? If so, how? Read this book for a step-by-step guide about what to do (or not do) about your business idea.