Questions and Answers with Norm Brodsky

I really enjoy sharing the conversations and advice I gain from my mentor and BEN co-Founder, Norm Brodsky. In fact, sometimes we’re able to share with you when we’re in the car:

Business Brilliant VLOG-Driving with Norm Brodsky

Posted by Lewis Schiff on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I thought you would enjoy some of the top questions and answers with Norm Brodsky:

Who is the mentor you learned the most from?

Norm’s answer? His first mentor was his dad. The business lessons he learned from his dad stuck with him his entire life. One particular piece of advice was “There are opportunities all around you. All you have to do is keep your eyes open.”

Today, Norm has created his own nodal network of mentors that he can call up whenever he has as business problem who will give him a truthful answer which Norm explains will help you become a successful entrepreneur.

How do you handle failure in your businesses?

Failure is something that everyone will experience in life, but it’s not something that a lot of people are ready (or willing) to consider or prepare for. A lot of the time, the failure of a business can feel like a personal failure, leading a lot of entrepreneurs to keep struggling for longer than they should. Norm’s advice?

Don’t see failure as a sign that all of your future endeavours are doomed. Looking back, Norm is able to see the failure of his first company as a painful experience that eventually led to the success and happiness that he now enjoys. Try to see your failure as an opportunity to learn a set of lessons that will help you avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Now it’s your turn. What’s one failure on your mind today?

Should I change my business model?

Changing a business model is a big deal, and can often be irreversible. Just because a large competitor switches to a support or subscription business model, that doesn’t mean that your company should necessarily make your product a free download. You need to look at the situation closely from a financial standpoint: how big is the market? How about your market share? How many new customers would you need to gain to make up for the loss of revenue? Even if a model is working well for your competitor, that doesn’t mean that it is the right fit for you.

When should you fire a customer?

Once upon a time, Norm would have argued that putting up with bad customers is just part of doing business. After all, it’s more of a hassle to find a new customer than to hold onto an old one. But after so many years in the business, he’s a lot more open to the idea of firing difficult customers instead of bending over backward to accommodate them.

A major turning point came when a substantial account announced that they planned to break things off with Citistorage, his former records storage company. When he investigated, he learned that a new records manager with the account was impossible to deal with – screaming at his employees and making outrageous demands. Even after a senior partner at the film admitted that the firm was considering staying with Citistorage after all, Norm was fully prepared to walk away. “I was prepared to negotiate price and service with the senior partner,” he told me. “But I was not willing to subject my employees to any more abuse from their records manager, and I made that perfectly clear. If they couldn’t assure me that she would be civil, keeping their business just wasn’t worth it to me.

What criteria do you look at faced with a new business opportunity?

You may have an opportunity at some point to get into a new business, one that may look very similar to your old one – at least to a casual observer. But beyond the superficial similarities, they may actually be completely different animals, and that’s something you need to recognize before taking the plunge. The same goes for expanding your business into new markets.

Norm Brodsky faced this issue firsthand when a friend of his approached him with a business proposition – building extended-stay hotels in Texas. Norm, of course, has had experience building similar hotels in North Dakota, and quite successfully. So why wouldn’t he jump at the chance? “I was curious, so I flew down to Texas to check out the situation,” Norm told me. But he ended up turning it down. “It may have looked like a similar opportunity to what I had done before, but it was actually totally different. The competition was different, the political environment was different, and the infrastructure situation was different. After deeper investigation, I realized that it wasn’t something that I was interested in, although I wish my friend success in his venture,” Norm says. Even if two business opportunities seem very similar, make sure that you know the difference before you leap.

Got a question for Norm Brodsky to answer? Post it on Norm’s Facebook page!