Wisdom//

The Story of the Poor Billionaire

People usually don’t change unless confronted.


When we decide to believe something and act, a transaction has taken place. We have given up something in exchange for something else. We have moved into a new space in our imagination and our thinking. We were over there, but now we are over here.

You have heard the sayings, “it moved me”, or “I was moved by what they said”. This is such an accurate way of stating our understanding of something intangible that changed us. We connected, adopted something new, and were touched deeply — moved!

In this story, I will tell you some things about me. I possess the ability to persuade and knowing that, it makes me rich and powerful. But persuasion is empty without substance, and change does not last without facts, data and evidence to hold it in place.

I’m going to anchor my Poor Billionaire story around four profound sentences and a one-line proverb. This has so much depth and evidence as to why there is such a thing as Poor Billionaires. I will add some stories of my own to help illustrate what this little story seeks to teaches us.

Objective: Once you understand that there are Poor Billionaires, if I have told the story correctly, you’ll be on a quest to find them, befriend them, and if you are one, perhaps you will learn something about the people around you, so that you can turn your intangible wealth into the riches you desire in life.

“There was a little city, and few men in it. And a great king came against it, and besieged it, and built huge siege works against it. And there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom saved the city. Yet no man remembered that poor man! And I said, Wisdom is better than strength; but the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.” [1]

People Usually Don’t Change Unless Confronted

I’m a specialist executive advisor who has completed 6 startups, including FinTech’s, long before startups and FinTech’s were a thing. I have also taken on turnarounds and executed on extremely difficult and unusual projects. One of these, was for a top-10 banking and insurance group employing 13,500 people with assets of US$73.2bn, a market cap US$12.2bn, and annual revenues of US$13bn [2].

The background to my engagement and my first story is that the 6th largest bank in the country couldn’t do any business in the toughest, most competitive lending market in the country. After three failed market-entry attempts they asked me, “Is it possible?” and “Can you do it?”

It would have been life as usual if the king did not come to conquer. It would have been business as usual if the bank hadn’t failed with its attempted market assault. When life throws a crisis or a failure at us, we are forced to re-assess. Like a woolen sweater with a loose thread, once challenged we tend to pull at the loose thread until it unwinds the whole sweater, row by row. We are vulnerable and start questioning everything. Life unwinds in our crisis.

We react to what we see in our imagination.

If I think I’m going to die, I see my imagined sequence of events from here to there. Alive….blah, blah, blah,….dead! Now living my death (well, that’s an oxymoron), I’m in panic, desperate to find someone, anyone who can change my imagination of what is about to happen. So my quest is about faith that can convince me to change what I believe the future holds — “does someone have a story with a happier ending?”

The dialogue I engage with next, is not life as usual or business as usual type of talk, it’s urgent, frantic, emotional, possibly unreasonable, and has higher value and priority.

Let’s look at the bank. They did not put an ad in the newspaper requesting people to submit expressions of interests or complete a tender document with a 120-day process. They came hunting for me in a passionate quest for answers to the key questions we ask in a crisis: “Is it possible?” and “Can you do it?”

After a crisis, things dramatically change, and NOT how you’d expect. This is one of the key reasons why there are Poor Billionaires.

Let’s look at the poor wise man whose city was in crisis and about to be invaded.

“There was found” — A city-wide search was conducted, top to bottom, rich and poor. They found him!

What do we know about him:

* He was wise — he possessed intuitive knowledge, seeing the unseen and able to bring it to life

* He had a plan — he was able to convert intangible wisdom into tangible action and results

* He was successful — he, by his wisdom, saved the city

* He was not remembered — people forget others and don’t want to remember bad times

* He was poor — rich in wisdom, our poor man failed to secure financial legacy for his efforts

Behavior After the Crisis Has Passed

The bank headhunted me, a market changer and market implementation specialist.

I personally possessed all the intangible knowledge (wisdom), was the architect and author of the plan and knew how I was going to make each and every thing in my plan happen. I wrote the budgets, set sales targets, set the recruitment plan, and oversaw the full set-up of a new regional office.

More importantly, I knew how I would use “intuitives” and intangibles. I could see them in my imagination. I would use influencing power for immediate momentum, and special confidence-building tools that increased qualification rates, referral rates, and sales closure rates — all existing in detail in my imagination.

Before me, several had failed. No one else could do it, and importantly, no one else believed it was possible to achieve, so no one was willing to sign-on for the job. After me, it would become a caretaker role — anyone with reasonable skills and training could manage the region.

Unlike the poor man, I negotiated hard as part of my terms of my engagement. I leveraged for everything I personally wanted, and for all the commitments I needed from the bank to effect my plan.

Once a crisis passes, things change back to “business as usual” and that’s a completely different place to an emergency situation. Just as the emergency room at the hospital is far removed from your warm and comfortable lounge room at home. As soon as things return to “the new normal”, something the change-maker establishes for everyone, people will forget everything that person did.

Depending on people’s emotional intelligence and development, sometimes people may even despise you, not for anything you did to them, but simply because you are part of a “crisis” situation they’d prefer to forget — unfortunately, when they look at you, in their mind they see the emergency room!

Even when you have prudently negotiated agreements, and you have delivered everything you promised, every milestone in your plan, you should prepare yourself to fight to enforce compliance to all the up-front commitments you were given.

Bizarre as it sounds, this is part of doing business for people in crisis.

What Happens Before People Are Ready to Change?

We live and exist within the confines of our thinking.

We construct where we live mentally and emotionally, just as much as we decide what house or unit address we live at physically.

To have a change of heart, or to change our thinking, we have to get the movers in!

That is why change is not some accident or an instantaneous miracle, like some lightning strike from the sky above. It’s an accumulation of little discussions and decisions that culminate in shifting house.

Long before we ever physically move house, we start talking about what we are unhappy and dissatisfied with where we live. We will start talking to ourselves, our partners, family and loved ones, friends, work colleagues, and even other people in our building or neighborhood — people in the same situation.

“This is really annoying me. I can never get a space for the car. The water pressure is terrible and the hot water always runs out when I have product in my hair. What is that smell coming out of the walls. There must be a dead animal somewhere. I’m tired of getting the super up to pump and clear the toilet, especially after every time I’ve had spicy food!”

Whatever the gripes are, you start to talk about how you don’t fit where you live anymore. It was fine for a time, but you are ready to move on. Just like a hermit crab who has outgrown its shell, you begin looking around for a better fit for your needs.

So let’s examine this. We start noticing signs for sale or for lease. We start talking to anyone and everyone, sometimes even strangers in shops or on the street. We engage in change behavior long before we make the move, and change!

Catalyst — a person or thing that precipitates an event

People Wait for a Catalyst Event

There is no real need for us to wait for things, we just do!

Even when things are not right for us, we can linger, so absorbed in our own pity and moaning that we fail to realize that we can simply move forward through a door, and things will change for us permanently.

Like a child that has dropped their ice-cream and is offered a new one, we can be so absorbed in the calamity of the melting mess around us, rather than grasping the new thing and begin enjoying it! So an event, situation, or person most often confronts us, triggering an internal change — we let go of the old, and reach out and grasp the new.

The Bank’s Newly Hired Agent of Change — My Job is to Confront and Move People

So they are ready for change, and I am the agent for change — the mover.

The bank had over-promised and failed to deliver, not just in some small way, but so badly in fact, that the national alliance with the largest realtor network was at risk. A battle needed to be won against the loudest and strongest antagonists against the bank’s market entry push. The bank’s incompetence had resulted in financial losses to realtors from lost sales — contracts that collapsed off the back of failed finance clauses. This caused friction, embarrassment, and reputational loss.

Intangible power of influence — I must convince a hostile room of seventy business owners about to meet me for the first time to move from being off-side, to being on my side. This is how I moved them:

Apparently you guys have been sending a ton of crappy business to the bank resulting in all the loan business getting declined.

[The room erupts! Got their attention. Now I have to raise my voice to be heard above the commotion]

Can I have a show of hands, who here has lost property sales because the finance and approval terms of the contracts weren’t met on time?

[Just about every hand goes up — they’re united]

Do you know what the problem was with the business you referred to the bank?

[They are staring at me, quiet, bewildered, searching for my answer]

Nothing!

[They softly smile, but they’re puzzled and waiting for my explanation]

The problem is this! You guys talk real estate and practical life. The bank doesn’t understand that. They speak rigid criteria, risk averse assessment, and impractical policy they try unsuccessfully to fit life’s circumstances. There’s a huge language barrier and communication issue here.

If you want to get most of your transactions financially underwritten, you guys are going to have to learn how to talk unrealistic bank talk.

[I stare at them. The room is silent. Everyone is looking at me]

Or there is another way!

[I pause for effect]

You find someone who speaks unrealistic bank, who can also talk real estate and practical life too, and let that person be the middle-man, interpreter.

It just so happens, I’m bi-lingual — I speak both. That’s why the bank asked me to fix this, and it’s why I agreed to meet you today to find out if YOU want this fixed.

[Time to change gears]

Could those people in this room who are considered the top 5 or 10 producers, could you please put up your hands.

[What top performers don’t love the opportunity to bask in some praise amongst their peers. The physical activity also breaks the room up and I’m getting my audience active, starting with the top performers. This also allows me to make eye contact and mentally note who I should target for immediate follow-up]

Thank you, please put your hands down.

If the top 1 or 2 producers from this elite, high performing group came to the stage and were asked to share with you some of their tips that ensured they were able to consistently get a handful more transactions to happen each month, who is this room would be interested in knowing that?

[Many hands in the room go up, much of the room nods, and everyone is engaged]

Well like your top 1 or 2, I’m here because I am able to get so much more business placed with the bank than my peers. I get job offers every week from major players in the market. I know how to best tell the story of your clients so that they will get supported and approved by the bank.

Let’s be honest, we are in this situation because none of you speak bank, otherwise you would have fixed it. So wouldn’t it advantageous for you to not only have someone who speaks bank, but to have a top performer who can get those extra transactions to happen each month, rather than work for the franchise down the road.

The good news is that the bank has given me an open check book to fix this problem.

[I pause and look around the room for effect. I need the words to sink in]

The bank said to me, ‘How many people do you want? 5, 10, more…?’ Do you know what I told them?

[Again, I pause because I’m drawing them in for the unexpected change of direction]

I said to the bank, ‘You guys just don’t get it. That’s the wrong question and exactly why the realtors are offside with you.’ The bank looked at me confused and wanted my answers!

[I crack a grin at the audience. They are looking at me, quiet, and unsure where we are going, BUT THEY ARE IN MY MOVING VAN WITH ME]

Do you see what I mean, they just don’t understand what you need, do they?

[They are nodding, but have no clue what I’m up to]

I told the bank, I’m going to turn this around by myself — just 1 person!

I’m going to meet face to face with every realtor, every staff member, and every client. I’m personally going to write the business for every office in this new region until I’m sure the bank understands what we need to make this relationship work for each and every franchise owner.

So I’m going to get everyone happy and comfortable, and THEN, at that point, I’m going to spend the bank’s money, and handpick the right staff, the best staff, and I’m going to involve all of you in the final selection process. Would you like to co-hire the best people with me?

I tell you, if you don’t like them, they don’t get hired. We need to work for YOU for this to be a success! Agreed?!

[Smiling, they are nodding while I’m telling them my new and strange plan, and I’ve taken them to a place visually where they are co-bosses appointing the new bank staff — influence]

So you will get completely comfortable with me, and our staff. How does that sound?

[They’re nodding and looking around at each other saying, ‘this sounds ok’. Now to conclude with my powerplay — tell them about my special assets]

I have saved the best news till last. From my years of working in the industry I have developed 2 special tools that no other lender or broker in the market currently has access to.

[I hold up a couple of samples above my head, till I’m sure they are all looking at my “magical things”]

I’m going to bring these to YOUR offices. They are going to help your sales people to convert foot traffic and phone inquiries into warm, qualified leads. Imagine, if your sales people were able to know with greater confidence that someone they are talking to has the capacity to purchase. How much more confidence will they have in closing more business each and every month. How many more sales do you think you’ll convert each year?

From some testing I’ve already done, I’ve been able to established that these tools can triple lead conversion ratios. We’ll need to do some more work to see how your people handle them, but if you can help me to embed this within your sales teams, I believe there’s a potential 3 times uplift in sales revenue.

[It was true, these tools were amazing and ultimately did work. Most importantly at this point, I had them focused on the potential 300% sales increase, once they could get their hands on my NEW tools]

We’ll get your people comfortable with me, and I’ll take personal responsibility to get the finance placed, on time!

You’ll work with me to build the best team in the market, and together will increase market share and customer satisfaction.

So let’s get back to the 3 choices facing everyone here today.

1. You can continue doing what you are doing, hoping your customers get bank finance; 2. You can learn to talk bank and help them; or 3. You can let me deal with the bank and get your customers approvals through on time, and you can work with me in building a winning service team, while we are implementing my NEW tools across your sales business, helping everyone write more business.

[I hold up my calendar and move into my close — close of my address, but also my sales close!]

It will take me a month to get around all the offices, so I’ve brought my diary to book into your sales meetings. After today’s meeting, I’ll be waiting to shake everyone’s hand and personally introduce myself. Come and have a look at the two new sales conversion tools and make sure you get your office scheduled into my calendar early for our roll-out.

[I thank them for their attention and get a round of applause. The regional manager, who was extremely nervous at the start of the meeting re-takes the stage, beaming and re-capping on a few of the positives. He encourages everyone to catch up with me. He adds to the story and tells them that he was informed about my outstanding industry reputation and that its quite obvious that the franchise now has access to the best resource in the industry]

Like the bank, these business people were ready for change too. The situation was critical. They needed change, and everyone had talked it through before I turned up — things must change — and they did, everyone successfully moved on!

I was the catalyst, who lit the fuse on something ready to ignite.

Results: I had inquiries to manage from that day on-wards, and promptly built the pipeline to hundreds of active files, and working twelve to sixteen hour days, six days a week for the first nine months, keeping my promises, I personally worked hard until we hired five mobile staff for each of the new regions I personally built. I also brought in all the additional support staff that allowed the region to grow to its thirteen branches — “He was successful — he, by his wisdom, saved the city”.

Dramatic Things Can Happen Every Day, But They Don’t!

We all say we are ready for change, but realistically, change is uncomfortable and uncertain.

Most weeks I’m talking to business executives and entrepreneurs who tell me they are ready to move forward.

Whether its growing an existing business, acquiring, merging, opening new offices, moving into new business lines, implementing better technology and systems, or heading an innovative new startup venture, everyone is saying they are ready. Eighty percent of the time, this is false!

It’s not so much their words that I listen to, it’s the actions, expressions, and demonstration of habits and unconscious behavior I’m really listening to. I’m looking to see if it’s all lining up, or contradicting what is coming out of their mouth. The intangible, non-verbal language speaks so much louder to me and tells me honestly who these people are behind their best-behavior facades. It gives me insight into how they will behave during transition, still in the stress situations, and most times it allows me to predict what will happen next.

If you are about to move house, the energy is more frantic and upbeat. You have boxes and packing tape. The communication is happening at a faster pace and there is excitement and stress in your voice. There are lists, clipboards, post-it notes, diary notes, alarms and reminders set in your smartphone, new email folders, cardboard folders holding swatches and brochures, stacks of papers and booklets, tabs on pages and coffee rings on paperwork, magazines, articles and lots of important documents.

Compare this to someone with low energy, lazing on the sofa, thinking about going for a walk a few blocks away. Unmotivated, casually going to have a look at the outside of a new apartment that is on the market because their partner said they should ‘check it out’.

Commitment to change speaks loudly in dozens of little “tells”.

If You are Ready for Change, You Will Change!

So when I walk into a business, and I’m greeting everyone in the board room, unlike “the big firm” consultant, I’m not focused on booking our uptown restaurant lunch, nor worried about getting my contract retainer document signed, so that I’m “on the clock”. I’m trying to wade through all the lies, misinformation and deflected questions, so that I can get to the truth — “where are these people really, here or there?”

Using the moving analogy, I’m asking: How much are you paying for moving boxes; Are you using a particular type of boxing tape — the one that splits; Who is your supplier; How did you estimate the cubic meterage for the moving truck; I observe who is taking notes and who isn’t, who answers, who stumbles or chokes; and I’m curious if you know the market rate for the moving items — after all you’re about to move and change your life, right?

Most times, this discovery leads to me politely suggesting another mover, and excusing myself, because I have no business working with people who aren’t ready to move. The big consultancies are happy to come and live and feed off your village — they’ll move in and never leave, if that’s what you want?

Change — You CAN’T physically live in two places at the exact same time.

You have to let go of the old if you are truly going to embrace the new. This includes acknowledging there are things that you don’t know, especially about your new surroundings, new relationships, and the unforeseen things that are about to happen. Smile, life is about the wonder of our adventure!

When we move to a new geographic area, not only is our life upside down because everything has a new place and is unfamiliar, but we are going to have to accept that everything is new. Like the layout of the new local store, or finding the new coffee shop you like, which drycleaner you are going to use and so on.

In life and in business, change is about embracing the unknown and the uncertain with passion and excitement so you can learn and grow again.

Poor Billionaires

I started this story telling you about a poor man who saved his city — by his wisdom, he saved the city.

Every day, around us there are these people, filled with wisdom, answers to life’s problems and mysteries. I am specifically talking about the people who may not have all their life together, or some calamity may have befallen them and their family. People may have stolen from them, falsely accused them or fractured their careers. For whatever reason, they are the gems in the dust.

If you start your own quest, and seek them out, I promise you, they are there. Hidden in plain sight all around us, every day. They have the answers to problems that need to be solved. But they may not be a doctor, a tycoon, a movie star or a supermodel. They may not live in a wonderful place, and you might not find them in the board rooms of a Fortune 500 company.

“…the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.” If we can practice “hearing” from those we don’t expect to have the answers, we will open up access to wisdom precluded by our prejudices to appearances. Proof of our insight is the act of listening, contemplating and valuing things offered to us. Let’s practice looking past the messenger and hear their message. If it resonates with you, act on it.

I can tell you from experience, these are the people we all need in our lives. They make us richer, and who knows, given the right circumstances, these people who might today be financially poor, will tomorrow be a billionaire with great financial resources — a rich agent of change! Meanwhile, let’s benefit from what they have to offer.

[1] Source: Green’s LITV Ecc 9:14–16

[2] Current values against USD/AUD exchange rate of 1/0.762725 as at 10/25/2016.

Next: The Minimalist Executive

Originally published at medium.com

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