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Do billion-dollar business secrets exist?

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A talk claiming to share billion-dollar business secrets is bound to raise a few eyebrows – it’s a fairly big assertion to make and you might question the merits of sharing such secrets if they’re as lucrative as they seem anyway.

Dan Waldschmidt isn’t necessarily your typical businessman though – if such a thing exists. He got his first taste of running his own business at the age of 12 when he started up a lawn-mowing initiative, and then at 19, joined his best friend’s father’s company. He’d thought Waldschmidt’s drive and passion would make the teenager a useful addition in reworking his sales force.

Speaking at The Business Show at London’s Excel, Waldschmidt admitted the first foray into sales meant he “read loads of business and sales books – probably at least 45”. As his mother had banned him watching TV, numerous hours were spent reading anyway, but he soon discovered “none of it was going to help me become very successful”. There was a plethora of seemingly mundane and inane advice, but nothing that would help his ambitions. After transforming the company and becoming CEO by the age of 25, he currently plies his trade as a business strategist.

Even now, he said it’s interesting that “so many companies are stuck”, and wonders why we constantly introduce so much new technology to try and help out. “Shouldn’t we know how to be successful by now?”

For four years, he studied a range of “extraordinary” people across professions, from sportsmen to politicians to businessmen. He mentioned a few examples including American Carl Joseph, who was inducted into the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame – his prowess on the football field all the more extraordinary as he ran and tackled on one leg. He had been born without his left leg, which didn’t stop him from getting involved in football, basketball and track – earning eight letters in three sports, without a prosthesis.

Waldschmidt also cited Derek Redmond, the talented British athlete whose career was blighted by injury – which most recall at the memorable 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. While competing in the 400m semi-final, he tore his hamstring but finished the race limping, assisted by his father. He later said it would have been more painful not to finish the race.

The result of this varied study culminated in Waldschmidt’s “four philosophies” for success, which he claimed can be applicable for all walks of life whether you want to prosper in business or just develop yourself as a person. The four pieces of advice were:

(1) Extreme behaviour
(2) Disciplined action
(3) Giving mindset
(4) Human strategy

He bends the rules somewhat to make the acronym “EDGY” – fudging it slightly by pronouncing “human” as “yuman”. While his brand of business advice may not be for everyone, the general principles, along with the human examples he’d assembled to develop the advice, are worth remembering.

“The number one reason people fail in business is because they fail as people”, Waldschmidt said bluntly. The ambiguous term “extreme behaviour” actually makes a great deal of sense when rephrased as “try more”. For Waldschmidt it becomes all too easy for people to claim they’ve tried something “when they’ve tried it a few times or even just once and say oh, it didn’t work”.

“It’s like the excuses my kids make, when they say I brushed my teeth yesterday, why do I have to do it today?” he added. You don’t necessarily know if something will work until it has been tried numerous times. Experience too, can actually be a drawback here. When hiring, Waldschmidt said it’s important to look to those who will try more and have the tenacity to keep bouncing back. You may think you know everything, or you’ve got the experience so you just assume something won’t work, but it’s all too easy to become stuck in a rut and not push yourself to try again or a slightly different approach.

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Similarly, following up and following through is crucial. Waldschmidt said there have been times he wants to help a business out, but the sales team just didn’t follow up. “I wanted to give them my money, I said here’s the money, but nobody chased it up,” he explained. For him, a useful tool has been Todoist – an app which can help you make sure you’ve done everything from “taking the trash out to checking in on social media every day”.

Perhaps the most interesting of Waldschmidt’s advice however, was the concept of “living fit”. One might wonder just how relevant that is to the business world and whether such advice would be more useful for someone looking for a life coach. When broken down though – living fit financially, living fit mentally and living fit physically – it makes sense that all aspects overlap and interlink. He suggested that if you ensure you’re as savvy as you can be when it comes to saving money, it’ll make it less likely you’ll end up in a tight spot if something happens beyond your control.

The toll striving to develop a business can have mentally is also something overlooked. “It’s the hardest emotional battle you’ll ever have,” Waldschmidt said. He added that he attempted suicide at the age of 26, “despite the fact I’d made millions of dollars”, reflecting how important it is that wellbeing stays at the top of your priorities.
His personal advice is to get “a psychiatrist, a therapist, a coach – whatever you need” to ensure that everyone has support. 

“We can all make bad decisions after a bad day,” Waldschmidt summarised. However much you may agree or disagree with his four guidelines to success, there’s no doubt something to be said for attempting to make sure your life is as well-rounded as can be when working to develop your business.

“You can’t predict when you’re going to be successful, because there are always forces outside of your control,” Waldschmidt said. You can though, ensure you’re taking care of yourself and your business as best you can in the meantime.

Image: Shutterstock

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