The Noodle

Tuning In

How to channel your creativity, find courage and defy convention

Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else

Margaret Mead

Venture Management Consultants doesn’t have a sales force. Never has. When John Murphy started the executive management and training firm in 1988, the former Notre Dame quarterback envisioned a company that could not only inspire and lead change, but also deliver customer value in a way that was better, faster, easier and at a lower cost than any of his competitors.

The lack of a sales force was an interesting concept for a new company. Murphy’s game plan was to create a business model that would provide the kind of customer service that would prompt his customers to promote his company through referrals and word of mouth. Murphy called it “leading from the inside, out.” If his customers started feeling like he was looking out for their best interests, and not just his own, together they could build a healthy and prosperous relationship that bred other relationships.

It was a strategy that defied the way most companies build and grow a business. But Murphy says that’s why the strategy worked. With an innate ability to tune in to what his company offered and the audience it was targeting, Murphy could do nothing but succeed.

Today, Venture directs what Murphy calls “conscious” business improvement. His client roster includes companies such as GE, Hilton, Chase, BMW, Target, Toyota, the U.S. Navy and the CIA, to name a few. Venture partners with its clients and uses best practices to improve their customer service and financial performance.

“Trust is the bedrock to any healthy relationship,” says Murphy, Venture’s founder and CEO. “We build trust by making commitments, keeping our word and consistently walking our talk. When we build trust, we build credibility, an essential component in customer service, innovation, leadership and teamwork. Without credibility, we have no influence. People don’t take us seriously. Customers doubt us. The best way to get customers to promote us is to give them good reason to.”

Ask any successful entrepreneur, and he will tell you that true success comes from finding the confidence to compete in any environment, the creativity to find your own voice, and the courage to defy convention against all odds. Success, truth be told, is about conquering fear. “The most important secret to overcoming fear is to recognize first that it is an illusion of the mind; it is self-generated,” Murphy says. “What scares one person does not necessarily scare another.”

As an award-winning author, speaker and international business consultant, Murphy is all about jumping into the face of fear and screaming “boo.”

“We create fear by doubting ourselves and assuming the worst. It is also important to recognize that fear is not in the present, but always a projection of the mind into the future. The same is true for anxiety and stress. We feel afraid when we create a picture in the mind’s eye of something painful, risky or emotionally disturbing in the future. This projection, surrounded by assumption, drives us to feel anxious and afraid. We could just as easily project a positive assumption into the future and see the world in a different way. Having faith and seeing a positive outcome in advance is critical to living life with confidence, poise and grace.”

Standing in the pocket

Ever seen the movie “Jerry Maguire?” How about “Any Given Sunday” or “For the Love of the Game?” Perhaps you were a fan of HBO’s “Arli$$.” On each of these projects, David Meltzer served as a creative and technical consultant, helping to provide guidance on how professional sports agents walk and talk. His work was part of his time at Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment, where, along with Steinberg and former NFL quarterback Warren Moon, he negotiated more than $2 billion in sports and entertainment contracts.

Today, Meltzer is CEO of the Warren Moon-led enterprise, Sports 1 Marketing, a job that requires he operate across all levels of the sports and entertainment business. The fast changing and ever-demanding environment requires the kind of quick thinking and moxie to which fear actually can be an ally, if you use the emotion correctly. “Self-confidence is really the key to everything,” Meltzer says. “Fear breeds caution, and caution should be a good thing. It engenders assessment and planning – two key elements to success.”

So, rather than let your fear constrict you, Meltzer believes you should use it to facilitate success. “Fear emanates from our ego, which is edging goodness out of our lives. It separates us from a strong connection to goodness. It’s that strong connection to goodness that provides us with clarity, balance and focus. It gives us the confidence to attract everything to us and allows us to take action on what needs to be done.”

Finding the courage to succeed is the key to success across all fronts, making the “that-which-does-not-kill-us-only-makes-us-stronger” mentality as prevalent today as it ever was. “If we allow it to, failure educates us,” Meltzer says. “We learn from our mistakes. The key is to recognize and accept that failure is a part of life. It is part of our journey. Unless we are failing, we are not trying. It is staying aware that we are living within the learning zone. It’s where we need to make mistakes. And then it’s what we do with those mistakes that is essential.”

Mark Faust believes you can face – and conquer – fear by getting out in front of it. He says many of us are cable of predicting the great majority of the likely outcomes in any “scary” situation. “It’s about thinking four or more steps ahead,” says Faust, a growth advisor, turn-around facilitator and principal with Echelon Management. “We only fear one or two of the outcomes, but the key is to think out excellent responses to these most likely and/or most concerning outcomes. By the time we’ve prepared our minds for the top 80 percent of outcomes, we will move forward with greater alacrity and better handle any of the impending outcomes.”

Since Echelon Management’s inception in 1990, Faust has conducted hundreds of sessions for clients from companies such as Apple, IBM, Monsanto, John Deere, P&G and Bayer, among others. In all of his dealings, Faust remains true to the belief that you must recognize the part of your past that includes your failures. If you don’t, you are not only likely to react slower to making corrections, but also apt to repeating them.

“There is a compelling magnetic vision that can draw you in and accelerate you toward accomplishment (if you let it),” Faust says. “Most important, it can accelerate innovation, which in turn allows you to leap-frog your competition. If you are unwilling to move the portraits of the founders around, you’ll be so stuck in repeating their steps that you’ll be passed by on the road like a four-cylinder engine being one-upped by eight-cylinder turbos. There is an adherence to values and morals that can protect you from danger, but to overly focus on past successes can distract you from the future challenges and cliffs from which you could quickly fall.”

By Michael J. Pallerino