John D. Rockefeller was a pioneer in the oil industry. He took such an aggressive approach to building and growing Standard Oil Co. in the late 1800s that the federal government felt it had to respond and prohibit monopolies.
He switched gears during the second half of his life and devoted himself to philanthropic causes, giving more than $500 million of his wealth — a lot of money today, but even more in the early 1900s — to help his fellow man.
Rockefeller revolutionized the oil industry and shortly thereafter, Henry Ford gave us cars that could be fueled by that very same oil. Walt Disney created “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Phil Knight helped transform the way we look at shoes and Jeff Bezos created a website where consumers can buy just about anything.
Each one of these business pioneers had a dream and an idea to change the world and refused to stop until it had been done, no matter how many challenges arose along the way. It’s the mindset that another wildly successful entrepreneur, billionaire Mark Cuban, has followed in his journey through life and business.
“I don’t care if you’re working a counter at McDonald’s or as a bartender like I did or as a doorman like I did, when it fails, whatever it may be, you’re going to learn,” said Cuban, in a 2011 cover story in Smart Business. “You’ve got to take that positive orientation to it and develop your skills.”
Cuban applied the lessons from his failures to co-found HDNet, buy the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and become a TV star on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” among countless other accomplishments.
Every entrepreneur has a different approach and a unique way of viewing the world. But at the end of the day, they all understand the power of relationships when it comes to making things happen.
“It’s the ability to sit down and talk, whether it’s breaking bread at lunch or dinner or just taking an opportunity to get to know somebody,” says Umberto P. Fedeli, president and CEO at The Fedeli Group. “Get to know their background. Get to know how they built their business and how they make decisions. How they decided to do this and how they decided to do that.
“Initially, it may not even be about the business or the transaction. It could be about family, a hobby or something that you both have in common. You build rapport, get some common ground and that’s how you arrive at a deal that becomes a win-win.”
The Fedeli Group is one of the largest privately held risk management and insurance firms in Ohio. Fedeli the individual is an active investor who has achieved tremendous accomplishments, both in business and in philanthropy in Northeast Ohio. He knows how to bring people, and companies, together.
He also understands that as you’re building that foundation, you are thinking about the end game the goals for both you and the person you’re negotiating with. One skill that all good entrepreneurs bring to the table is the ability to ask a lot of questions and get something useful out of every conversation.
“You should have a whole discovery process where you ask a lot of questions and find out what’s important to this person and what their goals are,” Fedeli says. “Try to find out how they process information, how they think, how they make decisions, what their concerns are. As much as you can, ask appropriate questions, and then do a lot of listening, that’s what you want to focus on.”