Whenever I am in my car, I prefer to listen to talk radio and select the National Public Radio (NPR) station. A few days ago I caught the tail end of the Diane Rehm Show during an interview with David Rubenstein.
Mr. Rubenstein is the co-founder and co-ceo for The Carlyle Group, a global private equity firm. A self-made billionaire, who today spends the majority of his time in philanthropic and fund-raising activities. He’s also noted for his role as a domestic adviser during the Carter Administration. In his early years he practiced law with a New York firm.
Diane asked Mr. Rubenstein an interesting question which caught my attention. He was asked what he considered his most memorable professional regret. He stammered through some vague regrets until she cornered him to explain one. He shared a story of being offered an opportunity to meet with Mark Zuckerberg who at the time was a student at Harvard. Mr. Rubensteins daughter was attending and knew Mark. Mark was trying to raise capital for his start-up company. Mr. Rubenstein declined to meet with him because he felt that Mark’s start-up company had no growth opportunity. Today Facebook is a mufti-billion dollar company.
What would you have done? Would you have declined? I suppose many of us would have. I most probably would have declined too. I wouldn’t have believed that some kid with a hoodie was going anywhere with his idea. Perhaps Mr. Rubenstein made this perceptive decision because his daughter was vague on her introduction of Mark’s idea or that his company was successful already and just had no interest. Whatever the reason, the meeting never happened.
A further analysis and breakdown of this incident is actually very interesting, especially in the world of sales. As we take a look back, it’s clear that both parties would have benefited greatly had Mr. Rubenstein decided to accept the meeting. Mr. Rubenstein would have a large stock in Facebook and Mark would have had a large funding source for his start-up.
If Mr. Rubenstein’s daughter was the messenger, it could be the cause for lack of interest. Why? Well, she really had no personal tie to the product or the meeting except that Mark probably asked her if she would talk with her dad. Secondly, since Mr. Rubenstein was already quite successful with adults, why would he venture into something with this kid. He felt it a waste of time and probably also felt that his co-partners or clients would think him insane.
The question “what would I have done” has actually crossed my mind before listening to the show. I have wondered what would I have done if a long-haired, bearded guy that hangs out in garage playing with computers had approached and asked me to invest in his business, would I have told Bill Gates no thank you? There is a very good chance that I wouldn’t have even said thank you!
Perceptions are strong. I tend to believe that our perception drives our judgment and this is how decisions are made. When we draw an inference about a situation, our values, behavior and experiences drive that decision. I grew up in a home that honored security in the sense of stability, practical thinking and the idea that you really don’t have control over your destiny. You go to work and you get paid what they tell you. Criticism and humility was used in abundance; especially if an idea or plan didn’t sound realistic.
I probably couldn’t even count the number of opportunities that I may have missed, and I probably still do. Just the other day I sat with someone who I met at a conference and is interested in merging some business ideas. I must admit, I’m still tossing this around of whether it’s an opportunity or a waste of time. Luckily for the internet we can gather much more data than pre-internet days.
Today I’m reinventing my thinking and learning that the best chance for success involves looking for opportunity, trusting my instinct, and being objective through research. It doesn’t hurt to have a defined goal either. For example, if I have a goal to be a philanthropist, I couldn’t do it on a bi-weekly paycheck, so working backwards from my goal, I have to seek opportunities that would meet this goal.
Ponder that thought for a few moments and ask yourself the question “What Would I Have Done” if given the same opportunity to meet with Mark Zuckerberg. Would you have met with him? If not, why not? Consider how you’ve handled other potential opportunities that crossed your path. Would it benefit to reinvent your thinking process or how you manage these decisions?
A great quote that I use to have on my signature block is by Sir Winston Churchill
Posted by Michael Levy, President of Verify Network, LLC Background Screening located in Tampa Florida.