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Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Authentic Negotiating Deal-Driven Growth

A Deal-Maker’s Paradigm Shift

Jeff Dennis is the trusted advisor to the CEOs of fast growth companies, where he provides strategic and financial advice. He is a lawyer, serial entrepreneur, best selling author, and public speaker.His book, Lessons from the Edge, is a collection of stories by 50 entrepreneurs who share their biggest mistakes in business and the lessons that they have learned. He’s a sought after public speaker for audiences across the world. Here, he shares about the deal-maker’s paradigm shift that has helped him grow throughout his career.

Creative Problem Solving as an Entrepreneur in Residence

Jeff shares that, early on, he expected to take over the family business. After circumstances changed, however, he had to reinvent himself. This reinvention is what ultimately brought Jeff into the entrepreneurial space. 

Now, Jeff is an “Entrepreneur in Residence” with Fasken Law, one of Canada’s largest law firms. He helps them answer the question: How does a big law firm do business with these new tech companies?

These startups often have vast legal needs, but often few resources early in. Although some of them turn out to be unicorns that achieve wild success, many don’t. It’s clear, however, that they have legal needs. Part of Jeff’s role is to enable Fasken Law to meet those needs creatively. He considers himself to be part intreprenuer, as he’s building a small business inside of an institution. He’s part business advisor, as he does quite a bit of coaching and consulting within his work. And he’s part lawyer too, as a licensed legal professional! His journey certainly has been a “typical” lawyer’s journey, but he’s enjoyed his alternate career path.

Some of Jeff’s creative ability comes from a unique deal he crafted early in his professional life. It involved his family’s restaurant business, a massive theater complex raining debris on their patio, and a revenue guarantee that enabled them to sell at a profit. (Curious about the details? Listen HERE to get the whole story!)

Discovering a Deal-Maker’s Paradigm Shift

Prior to Fasken Law, Jeff went through multiple iterations of business. First, he thought of himself as a real estate guy. He was registered with the Ontario Securities Commission as a limited market dealer, and was syndicating real estate.

And then the market crashed. It seemed like everything Jeff was involved with was connected to real estate, and suddenly that was nothing but bad news. Rather than throw in the towel, Jeff set to work reenvisioning himself.

His realization? He was a deal-maker. This paradigm shift allowed him to see that real estate had been a commodity that he was making deals around. Rather than fixate on the commodity (real estate), his world opened up when he realized he could create deals in any sector, with any commodity.

Jeff has since done deals in mining, cosmetics, insurance, stocks & bonds, TV productions, franchises, and more.

If you’d like to hear more about Jeff’s thoughts on the “pound of flesh” required to take investor money in these types of deals, listen to the full episode here!

Always Growing

As he branched into deals, Jeff also worked hard to network and grow professionally. He joined EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) and worked his way from local leadership to the international board. He wrote Lessons From the Edge, which became a bestseller and launched his speaking career. And he’s since traveled the world, speaking globally.

By using his deal-making skills as a springboard, Jeff has advanced personally and professionally throughout his career.

As he was writing and speaking, he also transitioned into angel investing. During this stage, he worked with early stage companies on commercialization and capital raising. Later, this experience would assist Jeff as he began crafting fixed-fee deals aligned with startup values and needs.

Creating Services & Products That Work

When Jeff talked about how a big law firm tends to deal with tech companies, the only word that came to my mind was “poorly”. Ultimately, law firms expected to operate with large hourly fees. And startups and entrepreneurs that were building tech companies couldn’t afford that.

There was an entire underserved market that was having to forgo legal representation, or deal with minimal legal counsel because it was out of range of their budgets. Jeff brought his deal-making experience to bear. Working within Fasken Law, he developed a concept for a fixed fee model that he knew would attract tech companies.

This creative solution required a great deal of negotiation. As a traditional law firm, they had to let go of “how it was always done” in order to try something innovative and new. From incorporating the company to creating shareholder agreements, creating employee contracts, and building employee stock option plans; Fasken Law became startup friendly.

Jeff shares that hundreds of companies from every sector came through these programs. Because they were structured as fixed-fee offerings that could be customized as needed, they were highly attractive to the startup market.

Ultimately, the deal-maker’s paradigm shift Jeff encountered early in his career has shaped his professional life ever since. There is power in making deals!

Listen to the full episode here!

 

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!

 

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Authentic Business Relationships Authentic Deal-Making Authentic Leadership Deal-Driven Growth

Deal-Ready Foundations: The Power of Team Building

In our last solo-cast, I talked about a few things related to creating a scalable business that you work ON, not IN. Although those concepts might not connect to all deals, the more you can do to create a business that doesn’t depend entirely on you, the more you’re setting yourself up for powerful deals. From new collaborations, joint ventures, or even preparing your exit plan: you can employ a variety of strategies to make your business deal-ready. One powerful area to consider is team building.

Team Building Expectations

Most businesses have some sort of team. Whether the team is all on sight or is working remotely, successful businesses that intend to scale are going to have to consider team building at some point. Often, we start to run into default ways of thinking here. We have expectations about oversight, presence, and even micromanaging that seep into our team building decisions. 

Our ego also starts to pipe in. We may have a tendency towards being controlling, or choosing not to trust our employees. When that occurs, we often use the excuse that “they” just don’t care about the company as much as we do!

On one hand, you’re right. When you own a company, you’re going to be invested in a way that an employee just will not be. And why should you expect them to have the same drive and commitment for your business as you? After all, it’s YOURS!

On the other hand, there are ways to build a team that is passionate, motivated, and connected to your business. A few ways to create that sort of team? Being flexible, building trust, and empowering every team member to contribute in the way the best taps into their skills. After all, isn’t that why you brought them on in the first place?

When you make deals, you show up at the negotiating table with the understanding that both parties are bringing something of value. Approach your team in the same way. This isn’t just an exchange of your money and their time. They have the ability to make a powerful difference in your business, but only if you allow them to do so.

My Own Team Building Experience

I have a dedicated, loyal team that I’m proud to work with. I’ve offered all of them flexible options that work for their lives and families.

You can find phenomenal employees who work hard and love what they do — and they might ALSO prefer flexible work schedules that give them opportunities to prioritize their families, hobbies, or other needs. That’s not a reflection on their ability to perform within your company. In fact, it only enhances it.

I’ve also noticed that sometimes amazing talents will bypass higher salaries from larger companies in order to work for a smaller company that offers them openness and flexibility. It’s simply not true that remote workers are less capable or talented, or that the “best” employees are working 9-5+ from a desk inside your building.

Another benefit? Diversity! Hiring remotely significantly increases the talent pool you’re able to hire from. Even if your local talent pool feels relatively homogenous, you don’t have to be limited to that. When you offer flexibility and remote options, the pool is global. You may find that your business can attract great employees, teammates, and leaders who bring powerful new ideas into your business when you open yourself up to their presence.

My flexibility and openness has enabled me to find excellent candidates and bring them into my business time after time. By being less rigid, I’ve been able to offer positions to excellent candidates that I would have otherwise had to pass by (or not even be aware of).

Another tip? Be aware of how your team is motivated. Some people want to be praised, especially in front of others. Some want to be challenged, and always have something new. Everyone wants to be trusted and empowered to do their best work in their own way.

Tap into your individual employee’s needs so you can focus on your highest and best use areas. As you do so, you’ll find yourself with the capacity to look for and close new deals of all kinds.

By building an entrepreneurial culture that values all team members, you may find yourself positioned for deals you might have never expected. 

Delegating Up

Sometimes you give a task to an employee, and they end up circling back to you. They have questions, or they’re looking for you to finish something off.

And although I want to be a resource to my team, I also want to discourage “delegating up”, in which they use me as a crutch. Sometimes team members don’t want to take responsibility for a decision (so they bring it back to you). Or they lack confidence or trust in themselves, so they’re looking for validation.

One trick I use: when I have employees ask me to look something over for them, I’ll ask them, “Do you really need me to do that?”. If they actually do, then I’ll look it over. Oftentimes, however, when they reflect they realize they don’t need me. I trust them to do their jobs, and it’s my intention to remove myself and have faith in them to do their work independently while being a resource to them when they really need me.

And honestly…

When you hire a team, you should be hiring people who are talented in areas that you are not. They are the content creators, site developers, ad creators, or admin professionals that you’ve brought in for a specific purpose. Trust them to do it. Let them know that they have the power and autonomy to complete the work assigned to them. If you give the ability to do this, you may find that they are even better at it than you!

Don’t be afraid of being “surpassed” by a talented employee who is really good at their role. Offer training opportunities. Help people become their absolute best, not only for your business, but for their own growth as people. Will that mean they leave your organization one day? Maybe! But wouldn’t you rather have a phenomenal team member who one day leaves for bigger and better things, than a mediocre team member who sticks around because they aren’t passionate about growing and improving?

Team Building Requires Trust Building

In deals, trust is essential. You have to be able to trust yourself, your partners, and the clarity of your objectives when putting together a deal.

Your team requires trust as well.

There is no way to truly scale and grow if you cannot trust and empower people. Your team members need your trust to do their best work. And you need to give your trust to be able to take things to the next level.

Encouraging creativity and building an empowered team is vital for successful positioning. If you’re hoping for organic growth, improved marketing, new joint ventures, scaling, or preparing for an eventual exit: you’ll benefit from creating a team you can trust!

In the trade off of a deal, it has to work for BOTH parties. If one side feels that they’re not getting their fair share, they won’t engage.

Team building is the same. Trust, respect, training, empowerment, autonomy, flexibility – these are all aspects of the employee deal-making process. When you bring a valuable package to the table that includes so much more than just a paycheck, you can build a team that truly takes your business to the next level.

When you do that, you increase your firm’s capacity to do deals, build enterprise value and better position the company to monetize that enterprise value upon exit.

In the future, I plan to talk more about how internal succession is an incredible deal option that only makes sense if you’ve built a team that can run your company without you. The foundation? Team building!

Listen to the full episode here!

Corey Kupfer is an expert strategist, negotiator and dealmaker. He has more than 35 years of professional deal-making and negotiating experience. Corey is a successful entrepreneur, attorney, consultant, author and professional speaker who is passionate about deal-driven growth. He is also the creator and host of the DealQuest Podcast.

If you want to find out how deal-ready you are, take the Deal- Ready Assessment today!