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Quit While You're Ahead

Do it in Vegas to keep your winnings; do it in business to keep from burning out.
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the August 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Why do entrepreneurs like Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corp., abandon their creations just as they're achieving success? They're smart, says Dr. Steven Berglas, who has spent 20 years studying the paradoxical dissatisfaction of people who appear to be very successful, and who teaches a Psychology of the Entrepreneurial Spirit course at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Kapor mystified many by bailing out of Lotus when it was doing very well and still promising even greater success. But there's a method to Kapor's seeming madness, Berglas explains in his latest book, Reclaiming the Fire (Random House, $25.95). He says many entrepreneurs are stimulated by "eustress," a more desirable cousin of distress, which energizes people rather than merely upsetting them. And smoothly running companies aren't the best places to find eustress, adds Berglas, so the solution for many entrepreneurs is starting new ventures.

Berglas' revelations about eustress are just a part of the many fascinating insights he offers. Among other things, Berglas presents theories for why successful businesspeople sometimes sabotage their success with drug abuse, white-collar crime and other destructive practices, a syndrome he calls "entrepreneurial arson." If you're doing great but feeling bad, he suggests doing something different enough to interest you without destroying everything you've built. Otherwise, you may find the fire is too hot to handle.

One to One B2B
Doubleday/Currency, $21.95

Visionaries Don Peppers and Martha Rogers made one-to-one relationships with customers a foundation of modern marketing. In their book, One to One B2B, they expand that idea to B2B marketing, taking into account the fact that marketing to other companies has been affected by the growing importance of Internet-based buyer cooperatives, electronic marketplaces and other such technologies.

In a series of profiles of B2B marketers, the authors spotlight a range of responses to the electronic challenge and discuss how Dell Computer Corp. segments business customers into groups according to their value to the company (in terms of the business they bring to it) and then crafts marketing appeals unique to each. The authors also explain how multinational agricultural chemical firm Novartis CP increased its share of Brazil's pesticides market in the middle of an agricultural crash by identifying the country's biggest farmers and cultivating relationships with them.

One of the most broadly applicable tools Peppers and Rogers present is the use of information technology to develop closer relationships with B2B customers. Of course, computers and customer relationship management software make tracking details of individuals possible for businesses of all sizes. So the authors recommend that, in addition to merely collecting names and addresses, you create relationship maps for users, purchasing agents, specification writers and others who influence purchases of goods and services in the B2B environment. That way, you'll be able to cost-effectively build ties to, say, that influential department head who always demands the most recent model and encourages others in the company to follow suit. Altogether, this book is a worthy supplement to Peppers and Rogers' consumer marketing manifestoes.

The Other 90%
Crown Business, $24

Leadership consultant Robert K. Cooper says the old saw about most people using only 10 percent of their brainpower is true-but he says you can tap more of your potential by using what he calls his four keystones: trust, energy, farsightedness and nerve.

You should start by learning to trust yourself as well as others. Next, work on cultivating an energetic (but not hurried) approach to the tasks before you. Being farsighted involves dreaming big and then aligning your actions with your dreams, he explains. As for nerve, that's largely a matter of constantly challenging yourself. In addition to the sweeping scheme, Cooper throws out occasional intriguing tidbits that can help make everything go smoothly-like the contention that a focus on competing, instead of excelling, wastes as much as 40 percent of every workday.

Life Is Not Work, Work Is Not Life
Wild Cat Canyon Press, $13.95

It's easy to believe that theologian Robert K. Johnston and market researcher J. Walker Smith lead balanced lives. Their brief, witty essays glow with ways to find equilibrium between labor and leisure. Johnston's recollection of gazing at a full moon while driving home from the office is infused with a sense of how easy it is to find pleasure in the moments between business appointments.

Smith's comical story of foolishly crashing his car into a parking attendant's booth is another lesson: Take a minute to catch your breath and keep your business in perspective. It's wise advice.

  Laura Tidwell
CEO of Enginehouse Media
Troy, Alabama

Elizabeth I, CEO: Strategic Lessons from the Leader Who Built an Empire by Alan Axelrod
Prentice Hall, $23

"The book portrays this queen's reign while studying the characteristics that empowered her to [become such an effective leader]. Equipped with strong communication skills, insight and moral fiber, Elizabeth accepted the throne of England and prompted one of the country's greatest periods of prosperity and creativity. This history lesson has helped me employ some innovative and highly beneficial communication strategies in my business. From basic survival and sheer grit to winning and what it means, these concepts will [strengthen] your grasp of success and how it is achieved. Every business leader would do well to study the strategic lessons taught by this great leader."


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