Strategic Investing for Entrepreneurs:Remember the Number to watch is 1440

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One of the innate personality traits of entrepreneurs is the inner drive to achieve, see progress, and bring all the “ideas in their mind” to life.  Often this comes with financial reward.  I don’t know too many entrepreneurs that are flat broke.  I find many are confident in their ability  to strategically invest their financial resources.  However, I don’t find the same confidence when it comes to investing a resource that is more valuable than money – our time!  Every day  each of us receives the same amount of time  to use in a given day –  1440 minutes.  We can use it to invest in our dreams, futures, our businesses, our families, our friends, and ourselves.  While many hit a big “payday” that gives them financial breathing space, there is no way to ever add even one extra minute to that number.  1440 is the number to watch!  It never changes.  It is that finite number we get to invest each day.

Entrepreneurs are forward thinkers, proactive,  and almost never still.  They often have lists either in their mind or on paper of task after task that needs to be done.  Each task is almost always a top priority.  I often hear my friends say,  “if only I had a few more hours in a day” or “just give me one more minute.”  Even more frustrating is the truth that  we  never have enough time in our lives to get every idea in our heads brought to life.   Entrepreneurs are convinced that they don’t want to die until every last idea, every last history altering brainstorm has been realized.  Our very nature wants to see all of our potential fully realized.

But then it happens – the minutes in our lives run out.  The seemingly endless supply of blocks of 1440 minutes run out.  We can’t squeeze in one more meeting, have one more incredibly creative idea, organize one more activity, or have one more minute with those we love.  More startling is  a truth that I believe with all my heart.  When we have spent all of those minutes,  those who remain won’t measure our lives by what we built, but by WHO WE BUILT!   Let that sink in for just a second.

Last week one of our dear friends lost her battle with cancer.  She was a Pastor’s wife, mother, grandmother, and also an entrepreneur.  After raising her family, helping her husband build churches, and launching several ministries, at the age of 60 she turned her attention towards her dream of building a successful interior design and staging business.  She had more energy and drive than 90% of the people I know.  In her personal life and her business life she was incredibly successful.  That’s not to say there were not struggles.  But she always overcame and always kept moving forward.

Because of our involvement in her celebration of life service,  Susie and I talked with a large number  of the friends and family who attended the service.  We were immediately struck by the realization that not one person mentioned her personal accomplishments.   Instead they wanted to talk about how she poured into their lives.  No matter what dreams of her own she was fulfilling, she always managed to simultaneously pour into the lives of  people around her.  She  gave them time, encouraged their dreams, poured belief into them.  As her three  children and 11 grandchildren talked about her, all they could mention was how much she had poured into their lives.  Susie and I know that much of what we learned about raising a  family that is centered on faith and family came because of her influence and the deposits she made in our lives.

Interestingly, not one person talked about missing her accomplishments.  What  would be missed was her influence, the force of her presence in their lives.

I was reminded of the difficulty every entrepreneur has in figuring out how to make sure they invest the minutes of their days strategically and wisely.  1440 – that’s all we get each day!  Dollars needed for the next project, the next acquisition, the next big thing can usually be found somewhere.  But moments and days – they are truly finite!

As I stood listening at the funeral,  in all honesty,  I found myself wishing that when my life were done I would leave the same vacuum that Kathy has left.

But daily I struggle with getting slowed down by people.  In my hurry I leave conversations unfinished, I don’t write the note, don’t make that call, tell someone to hurry up…..don’t take the time ……

Here are a few realizations I came to as I processed the events of that day:

*Investing our  1440 in people  will always produce a great ROI! (Return on Investment)

*Always look for a way to make our time do double duty – invest it in our ideas but bring people along  for the ride.  Learn to use phrases like  “Walk with me…..Do you want to ride along……Can you help me……

*Each day set my priorities before I arrange my schedule.

*When forced to decided whom to spend time with, opt for the one that lives under the same roof you do.

*When torn between a decision of where to spend time opt for the opportunity that won’t come again.

*AND HERE IS THE BIGGEST – PUT THE PHONE DOWN.  That screaming vibration alerting us to an important message, email, call or Facebook post.  Learn to delegate part but not all of your 1440 to it.  Decide when and how you will respond.  Control it – not the other way around!  I know that there are time sensitive issues and sometimes we have to be at the mercy of our phones – but not 24/7.  As I sit in restaurants I am saddened as I watch families ignore each other.  Why do we ignore the valuable moments in our own lives and scroll down and  watch someone else’s.

*Put each moment to the Best Use Possible (BUP)

*Don’t lose focus of what is really important.  The bottom line isn’t always a financial number.

*I have never seen a hearse followed by a U-Haul – only by varying numbers of people.

As I talked with Kathy’s husband that day I told him that one thing that I realized was that Kathy had invested her life well.  She had strategically invested in the lives of others.   Even as she pursued her goals she found a way to do it in a way that the results always built into the lives of others.  Now, that’s how I want to spend my 1440.

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No Entrepreneur is an Island

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Early in my adult life I knew I had the push, desire, and drive to begin projects and make them work.  I remember as early as sixth grade organizing musical groups  for our school because we did not have a music instructor that year.  In 10th grade,  I began an after school piano program  at a local elementary school.  They  paid me well and funded all my high school years and first year of college.  I didn’t know at that point that 10th graders don’t really take on that kind of project.  In our  churches,  I thrived on the energy that came from conceiving and implementing  programs and activities that were new and created a buzz and fulfilled a purpose. I knew I was a starter.

At the same time, if I have to be honest, in all my endeavors, I noticed a certain lack of concrete, in depth planning,  I could get the ball rolling but I really fell short at developing detailed plans to get the job done or see something continue after I was no longer involved. I often said I wasn’t a maintainer, but in all honesty it was more than that.  I usually just made it up as I went along.  I knew it was a flaw in the mold of my makeup, but as long as I could keep inventing ideas,  having creative solutions come to mind effortlessly, and use all my energy to pull off a project, I was OK.  But then I met my wife…..(insert Dragnet music….)

She, too,  has an incredibly insightful entrepreneurial mindset, but hers is expressed much differently.  She is creative, determined, and always sees a project through from beginning to end.  However, while I thrive on having multiple projects and ideas swirling all at the same time ( after all, you have to have multiple lines in the water, right?  See  Ecclesiastes 11:2 for a validation of my belief!!)  she is focused and determines the entire path of a project.  She is meticulous!  Did I mention she loves details? Then there is the  other major difference – she focuses on one thing at a time!  Yes,  just one thing!! ( I used to pray that I was not the one thing :).

It was early on in our dating that I realized this difference and I actually  was incredibly thankful.  They say opposites attract and this was certainly partially true.  I remember the exact moment, (evening after my senior recital), location, (sitting in her driveway  while she was dropping off some supplies in Clarks Summit, PA),  and the circumstance, (she had just pulled off an amazing reception for my Senior Recital)  when I realized that God had put us together as a team because we each needed the strength of the other.  I think we would have been successful as individuals, but together the results would be more significant.  **A side note – while we were opposite in methodology, we were 100% agreed in our value systems.  That’s huge and the subject for another blog article.

In the churches we served, in the conception of Masterworks, and when she developed her National Area of women in Mary Kay, it was always a joint effort.  When I got my Real Estate License and opened the doors to my business, I realized again how important it is for every entrepreneur to have the “other half” of the equation involved in the process.  We all have areas of natural talent and natural ability. In fact I read that Real Estate is a talent driven business.  However, 87% of agents fail miserably in their first year.  The problem is that I don’t know of any business that is built solidly on one person’s talent.  It usually takes multiple vantage points, and multiple methods to do anything well.  That’s why athletes have coaches, why CEO’s have boards….for me, it’s my wife – for you it may be a mentor or a coach or just a good friend who sees your flaws and runs with you anyway.  But to succeed you need someone who helps you with areas where you are just not….TALENTED!

I had an acquaintance who passed his Real Estate license.  He began quickly and with his people skills, he took off with several high visibility clients.  He was incredibly successful – AT FIRST. While he was loaded with talent and people skills, he hated detail work.  His success began to tank when he actually sold the same home twice and each time it fell through because he had not been thorough in the detail work.  Needless to say – the high visibility clients let their friends and neighbors know what was going on and he was out of business as quickly as he had climbed the ladder of success.

I also realized that for many years I would get frustrated with Susie’s attention to detail.  I thought she was spending too much time on little things.  There were mountains to climb and lives  to change and I didn’t understand how the color or amount of napkins at a banquet was important in that picture.  But…now I see it.  As I watch people respond to her methodology,  I realize everything in the process is important.  The big ideas and then the details – it takes all the parts to make the dream work! I believe with all my heart that it’s a huge blessing that I not only have her,  but that some of her methodology ( I wish it were all,  but I’m making progress) has rubbed off on me.  I still like to have multiple lines in the water but now I know there has to be a plan and system in place to make sure the process is smooth.  Details are critical!  Communication is imperative and follow through until the very end is non negotiable!

When I began Real Estate school, I was immediately aware of the incredible number of details and legal liabilities that I had never realized were part of the Real Estate process.    In our personal real estate transactions,  we have gotten burned several times because we used an agent that did not have their eye on all the moving parts.  Once,  because of an agents error,  I discovered we were $10,000 short the night before a closing (the agent just said , “I hope you can come up with it fast!),  another where the deal fell through two days before closing because the agent wasn’t skilled in a specific area.  That should never happen if all the moving parts are monitored and in place.

Whatever business you are in – you have to figure out where you are lacking and don’t be too proud to find the person or people who can help you sure up those areas.  It’s easier to put our head in the sand and ignore our weak areas.  But in the long run, for our benefit, and the benefit of everyone we serve, we need to ask and rely on the strength of those who have skills in areas where we need help.  This has been a painful truth for me to admit – especially on days where I think I have it all together.

So, here are my E! lessons from this blog:

1. No entrepreneur is an island!  To be really successful you have to run hard with your strengths, and work equally hard on the areas you struggle with.

2.  Find people who share your values, but have different skill sets and talents.   After all, it’s always easier and more enjoyable to run with someone else at your side.

3.  It takes more than being good with people or people skills, you still have to LEARN skill in your area of expertise.


*My better half and I celebrating 40 years of married life in Central Park last week!  I will always be thankful that God gave me someone who possesses  the skills I do not. You’ll have the privilege of hearing from her in weeks to come.

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An Entrepreneurial Paycheck I Couldn’t Deposit

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The label “Entrepreneur” often brings the Bill Gates lifestyle to mind. We tend to believe that the payoffs of entrepreneurial efforts come in the form of expensive cars, mansions, luxury vacations, and opulent lifestyles. But sometimes the payoffs are nowhere near as visible. They don’t have monetary value. They only have the rewards that you experience in your heart and mind. Sometimes the memory, the sense of accomplishment, and the motivation from an entrepreneurial effort ARE the payoff.

In 1999 Susie and I moved back to North Carolina and began Masterworks School of the Arts. Initially the school had no physical location. I would drive from home to home giving piano lessons. My wife often called me the “piano man”. I was usually in the same 40 homes each week and I saw about 55 students. I have a whole treasure trove of laugh-out-loud stories from those three years that I will someday put into writing!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in each home, getting to know the families, understanding the kids, and finding a way to unlock the learning potential of each student. As weeks passed I began to see something that I wasn’t expecting. An incredible number of families were struggling with family relationships. Parents who had to travel struggled with balancing work and family. Marriages needed help and answers. Some of the kids were out of control (one day a 4 inch rock actually landed in the middle of a grand piano from the balcony overhead as a toddler laughed uncontrollably – the parents just sighed…). I was being asked questions that I couldn’t and didn’t want to try to answer. In lighter moments I would laugh, but in reflective moments I would feel a real sadness for what I was seeing.

During this time our Pastor did a four week series called “Raising Healthy Families”. I remember sitting in the services thinking ”if only I could load up many of my customers and drive them 30 minutes to the church.” I tried handing out some invitation cards but soon realized I could not convince most of my customers to make the trek with me. I was searching for a solution for them just to hear the insight, encouragement, and principles of our Pastor. If they did it would change the dynamic of their families.

The entrepreneurial part of me wanted to create a solution and “fix” a problem. As I drove from house to house I kept wondering how I could get the families to a church thirty minutes away. Then one morning I saw a school bus from a school forty minutes away picking up a group of students. The school was expanding into an area outside the comfortable driving range of it’s normal student populace making it easy for parents to have their children in a good school. That sparked an idea – I would bring the church to them!! The solution was pretty simple. Bring the information to them in the form of a Neighborhood Guest Speaker Event. I hadn’t ever seen or heard of one, I didn’t know if it would work or exactly how to do it, but I knew the idea and motivation behind it were sound so we got to work.

Susie and I rented a venue, found a caterer, and started to promote the gathering for moms and dads. The only problem was the cost – the event would cost hundreds of dollars that I really didn’t have at that point. Still believing we had an answer to a problem that was really weighing on our hearts, we continued making plans believing that the risk was worthwhile and we would find the money somewhere. Then we had the idea to charge a seat fee. Outwardly while I was trying to tell people it was a good idea, I was thinking in my head that if I were a parent and was being asked to buy a ticket and spend my Friday evening at a speaker’s night on “How to Raise Successful Kids” I probably would have politely declined.

Then the first payoff happened. Several families said they had been waiting for something like this and asked if they could buy a table and hand tickets out to their friends. A huge sense of accomplishment came over me when I realized I had come up with a plan that was gaining traction. It was fun and rewarding to have “running partners.” Within 7 days all ten tables were purchased by supportive families and all 95 tickets were committed. I learned very quickly that there are always others who see the same needs you do – they just don’t have the mindset to get a solution rolling. Sometimes it’s just hard to come up with a creative solution and step out with a plan. But when you do the momentum becomes unstoppable! More than that – I felt like I had just had a huge “entrepreneurial payoff” knowing that we had begun something that was important and had taken on a life of its own.

The real payoff came the night of the event. However, at the outset I didn’t think there would be any reward because the evening didn’t begin well. Susie and I welcomed the couples in and I sensed a great deal of shall we say…..annoyance? Lots of wives were happy to be there because the people who bought the tables for their friends managed to creatively help us turn the evening into a social “must attend” event. As I stood up to introduce the speaker I saw a lot of crossed arms, frowning faces, and glances at wristwatches when I said “in just ninety minutes you will hear……” This had the potential to get ugly!

But slowly, things changed. As the speaker delivered his well prepared ideas, the body language in the room completely shifted. By the closing words our guests were sitting on the edge of their seats wanting more information. As I closed I asked them to say thank you to the speaker. The entire room stood to their feet and gave him a thunderous round of applause.

That evening, as I stood at the door saying goodbye and watching my customers and friends leave, time seemed to slow for a moment as I contemplated what had just happened and what it meant for the future. I knew the results of what my customers had heard would take days, weeks, and months to take effect – but I knew in some cases there could be profound differences. At that moment I felt a huge sense of reward- reward for taking a chance, reward for following my sense of need, reward for making a difference, reward for helping my customers. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I realized that what I was experiencing at that moment was the payout for taking the initiative to help meet a need. There was no check to deposit in the bank – no new students – no increase in the bottom lone. Nothing that I could point to and say look at that!

To this day, I feel that few of my entrepreneurial efforts were as important or as rewarding as that evening. I’ve seen a lot and done a lot, but most of it doesn’t bring me the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as those moments did.

Looking in the review mirror I realize several important entrepreneurial life lessons:
1.  When God tells you to do something – just do it! He’s got the details!
2.  Gather people around you who see your vision – their energy and creativity will help the project take on new life and possibly a new look.
3.  You can’t always deposit your biggest payouts in your bank account. Sometimes your paycheck is only something that you can see, feel and experience from affecting someone’s life.
4.  When you see a need – don’t worry about the fact that what you see as a solution has never been done before. Chart a course of action that seems reasonable or maybe even a stretch and go for it.
5.  Sometimes you just have to risk investing when you can’t see exactly how the finances are going to work. ( I know I just lost the Dave Ramsey fans.)

Some of us don’t have the riches of an entrepreneur. You may have something more important – the heart. Some of you are true entrepreneurs and don’t even know it.

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What is the E! Family

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What is the E! Family?

This is my current situation! I love sitting here – little noise-no one walking by, just the sound of a nearby fountain and a few buzzing mosquitoes that I am determinIMG_1991ed to outlast. (Even perfect tranquility is not totally free of challenges).  In the few short months since my wife envisioned and created this space, it has become a favorite spot for family and friends to hang out, talk and just relax. Our schedules are normally crazy (like yours), so this space doesn’t get near enough use, but this morning I have a few moments to sit and catch up with life.

I’m thinking about last Fall when a close friend suggested that he and I go to school and get our Real Estate licenses. It took me 30 seconds to agree. I love real estate (my kids were annoyed when I suggested that a fun Sunday activity after church was visiting open houses). Susie and I and have bought and sold over 18 homes in the last 30 years. We have done the “This Old House Thing”, rehabbed, flipped, had renters, fixed what renters broke…. All as “amateurs.”


The obvious question would be “why” get your Real Estate license, why enter into a new venture with all that Susie and I already have on our plates? We own Masterworks School of the Arts, Inc. in Davidson and Mooresville, NC, Susie is a National Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics, and we have another seasonal business, Dave’s Christmas Workshop ( We are passionate about our church involvement and then there’s five grandchildren between the ages of 5 & 6 that are the joy of our life. Why on earth would we add one more thing to the mix?


The answer lies in what my wife, Susie, tells people – “We are an Entrepreneurial Family.” When we see potential and opportunity, we love to get involved. Sometimes that means starting a business, sometime that means helping someone else start a business, and sometimes it just means lending a hand and getting involved in a venture. For us, the thrill, terror, uncertainty, struggle, and reward of seeing something blossom, mature and affect the lives of others makes each day something to look forward to and enjoy. Taking the initiative and opportunity to design our live and the activities of our lives in a way that reflects our values and passions is my definition of an E! Family.


While not everyone wants to maintain four businesses, almost everyone shares a desire to live an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Don’t we all want:

*Freedom to design a schedule that reflects our values

*Flexibility to live life outside of a cubicle

*Earning a living by following our passion

* Not wasting the minutes and hours of the life God has given us

*Affecting, encouraging, and influencing the lives of the people around us


So how do you do that – how do you have that kind of life?   I don’t have all the answers but I do have some insight and I have a wealth of friends here and around the world that have been examples of what this kind of life looks like. I thought that it would be great to create a place where we could share ideas, share successes and failures, and encourage others to live this kind of value driven life. That’s what the E Family will become!


If you’re at all curious about developing an entrepreneurial mindset or lifestyle, tune in here each Monday and we will share stories, experiences, and advice from numerous individuals and families. I hope you’ll laugh, (I really do like to laugh), cry, be encouraged, and see the potential in everyone and everything around you. You’ll see the good, the bad, the ugly, and the humorous. I’ll introduce you to friends who have found incredible success and influence, and we’ll give you a front row seat to their incredible accomplishments, as well as some epic disasters. The most important thing you’ll understand is that every experience is preparation for the next step of this journey we call “life.”


I believe God has a plan for each of us.  He has something unique that He has planned for us to accomplish that will impact everyone around us. Sometimes we just need a little help, encouragement, and courage getting there. It’s my hope that the E! Family will be one source of help, encouragement and courage!

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