Persuasion plan

Is your gain proportional to your pain? BRENDAN LEWIS

Brendan Lewis

By Brendan Lewis

I once sat next to an old General at a formal dinner. After chatting to him for an hour or so, I decided he was a genuinely nice bloke that had a wealth of knowledge about all things military. Not history, but the esoteric stuff like “why does the handle of my cup have a funny shape cut into it that nothing seems to fit”. Because he was a nice bloke and seemed interested in me, I decided to ask him a question that had been bugging me for a while. It had nothing to do with the amount of red wine in my tummy.

The question was: “Why is every General I meet a really nice guy, but I only ever seem to meet Colonels that are seriously unpleasant.” His response was: “Son, that’s because Colonel is the highest rank your can get promoted to when you’re an arsehole, but you have to be a nice guy to get things done.”

This conversation was very much about military things, but I felt the parallels with my civilian career of entrepreneur were strong. I met lots of arseholes that were running small ventures (and crowing about how good they were), but anyone achieving major success seemed to be a genuinely nice guy.

My thoughts in regards to getting new ventures up was that anything worthwhile doing is going to take a while to get done and will be difficult to achieve. Like Seth Godin says in his book The Dip, if there is no pain, anyone can achieve it and therefore the returns are much lower.

As the entrepreneur working by yourself, this isn’t an issue; you take the pain for the long term gain. But it can be a bugger getting other people to help out with your venture or do you a favour, because only the insane would take short term pain without an expectation of gain.

Assuming that this week we are a bit short on insane people, your options to get people involved with your venture normally are:

  1. Share the long term gain; that is, make them a partner in the venture (either conditional or unconditional, depending on the person).
  2. Get lucky and find someone who happens to have a different long term goal, that happens to be helped by the same short term actions. For many large enterprises, this is the principal behind joint ventures.
  3. Pay them to ensure they have a short term reward for their actions (employees, contractors or suppliers).
  4. Provide other short terms gains for their action.

Now I think it’s mostly likely that option 4 is the most desirable as it maximises your return. How do you then figure out what other people want in lieu of money? Well you can start by being a genuinely nice guy and interested in them. It then becomes easy to do them favours that they value.


Brendan Lewis is a serial technology entrepreneur having founded : Ideas Lighting, Carradale Media, Edion, Verve IT, The Churchill Club, Flinders Pacific and L2i Technology Advisory. He has set up businesses for others in Romania, Indonesia and Vietnam. Qualified in IT and Accounting, he has also spent time running an Advertising agency and as a Cavalry Officer with the Australian Army Reserve.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



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