This episode kicks off as Shaquille O’Neal walks into the lounge of Four Seasons to meet with Ian and his friend David. Frank interviews Ian as he shares every detail of this two-hour business encounter with the Hall of Fame legend.
In this episode:
- “Don’t stare.”
- Preparing to make a great first impression
- A little luck never hurts
- Anticipating every contingency
- Knowing when to close, and doing it right
- “It’s not personal, strictly business.”
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Listen to the podcast here:
Ian’s Meeting With Shaquille O’Neal – Part 2
This is part two of my Meeting with Shaquille O’Neal. If you missed part one, stop reading. Go back and read part one, so you’re not completely lost to why the hell Ian is meeting with Shaquille O’Neal in the first place. If you already read part one, sit back and enjoy as we have arrived at the Big Diesel showing up at the Four Seasons in Atlanta for our big moment. If you are new to this show, hit subscribe, join us. It would be awesome. If you are a longtime reader, we thank you and appreciate you. Please give us a five-star review or at a minimum, tell all of your cool friends about it and maybe even a few of your jackass friends.
You were in the corner booth. You and David were sitting there. This enormous human walks up. I want to know what it was like to see someone with that size, number one. Number two, what happened from there?
Nothing can prepare you. You know conceptually that this man is 7’1″, approaching 400 pounds larger than muscle, but if you’ve never been around something like that, it’s impossible for me to explain it. He walks in. He has got a polo shirt on jeans and moseys his way over. The entire room gets quiet. What was a bustling room of people eating, it’s impossible for everyone not to turn their head and see this dude walking through the room. He is so large. You shake his hand. He is nice when he walks up. His gloves and mitts are like grizzly paws. His hand is so big. It is like shaking Max’s hand, your two-year-old. It just envelopes. Your hand gets lost. I tried as hard as I could to make my hand big. I stretched it out, so I looked like I was shaking his hand, but it was impossible. He blocks out the sun. You’re in his shadow when he walks up. I’m 5’10”. I’m having to look straight up. David is 6’4″. He is looking straight up.
Most importantly, was that 4-foot ladder have gotten you above Shaq’s head height or no?
I don’t think so. We have a lounge couch or two chairs. That was the way it was set up. He took the chair, but his leg is so long that his foot was directly underneath me. I was trying not to rub legs with Shaq. I looked down at my foot and he is a size-22 shoe. His shoe is more than twice the size of my shoe as I looked down. It’s comical how massive this guy is and not just tall. He is wide. He is twice as wide as I am. He is like a pterodactyl width. A couple of times, he put his hands on the back of his head and leaned back, thinking about it and stretching his back. You’re like, “My God.” His bicep is bigger than your head when he puts his hand behind his head and stretches. You know why you’re around the most dominant NBA force ever that used to rip baskets down. He is a monster.
Do you remember the scene in The Italian Job? Marky Mark was trying to buy some explosives and the dude was this enormous Samoan who is 500 pounds. He tells Mos Def as they walk up, “Don’t stare.” Mos Def was like, “What do you mean I’m not going to stare?” The guy has got this super long hair. He is enormous and Mos Def loses comprehension of speech. He says nothing. Marky Mark was like, “What the hell?” It feels like you did all this preparation. You did all the stuff. You stayed sober. You were in a bar. You were doing everything right and then this physical being showed up and completely changed your frame of mind.
That lasted a little bit. This is got to be, if not the biggest, one of the biggest sales calls I’ve ever been on if you want to look at it as sales calls. I don’t know how I was thinking, but there are not many bigger meetings I’ve ever gone to figuratively and literally. I slept like a baby the night before. I was giddy and excited, but I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anxious like, “I’m going to screw this up.” Part of it is how much insane preparation I did for this meeting. I truly felt like, going in there, I knew Shaq even though I had never met him before.When your product speaks for itself, you wouldn't need to sell. Click To Tweet
There’s something about podcasts. When you listen to them long enough, they’re intimate. You start to feel like you know the person when you listen to their voice and tell their stories. I felt like there was no way we could have prepared more than we did. I felt like I knew a lot. I felt confident in our product and the problem and that it would speak for itself that I wouldn’t need to sell. I wasn’t selling a piece of crap product or idea. I don’t even know if I was selling. I was just telling a story.
I wasn’t nervous, but there’s that moment at the beginning where you’re in awe. I wasn’t in awe because he is a celebrity. I was in awe because I’ve never seen another human being even that. I met André the Giant when I was five. I got a backstage pass. My cousin bought me and I got to shake Andre’s hand. It felt a little bit like that, but I was five, so everyone seemed big to me then. Now, I’m a grown-ass man and I still felt like a five-year-old shaking Andre’s hand. That’s how it felt.
The physical piece aside, this is an enormous human. He walks in. The room is agape. Everyone knows it’s Shaq. People are kicking each other underneath the table but this is the beauty of having this meeting at the Four Seasons versus Chili’s because, at a Chili’s, he probably gets mobbed. At the Four Seasons, people are fairly professional and they keep to themselves. Shaq was sitting in front of you and David. What happened? How did you broach that conversation?
Shaq led by saying, “I appreciate you guys working with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I love that organization. It’s an important organization and it means a lot to me that you donated there.” David reciprocated and said, “We thought it was cool that someone of your stature and with your busy schedule would still offer an opportunity like this for charity.” We talked a little bit about charity. That was a nice and warm open. In our research, we had this twenty-page Google Doc that we put together with every quote and a little snippet of fact that we knew about him coming into it. We had lots of little things where we could use them along the way, but we gave a lot of thought to like, “What’s the best icebreaker?” We decided that would be David’s.
David was a military brat and so was Shaq. Shaq moved all over the place. He was in Newark, Germany, Hinesville, Georgia, Texas and so was David growing up. The two of them were in Germany at the same time. Their dads were stationed in Germany. Both of them had to move to this foreign country at the same time. David mentioned that. That was a brilliant opener for us, where Shaq was like, “Where in Germany?” I thought that worked well. We had it set up where David was going to do that little icebreaker and then I was going to start what the agenda was and take the lead on the mentoring session part of it.
It was a good icebreaker. You could tell that it landed and connected. Shaq was still very subdued. My impression of him, from everything I had listened to everything I’ve heard and that you see on TV, is goofy, funny, affable and jovial. He cracks jokes all the time. He is self-deprecating and stoic. What we think happened was he just got up from sleeping or taking a nap because if you think about his life that night, he was going on air at 9:00. That game didn’t end until 12:30 or 1:00. He wasn’t off the air until after 1:00 in the morning with the post-game show.
That probably takes time to wind down. He is probably going to bed at 3:30 on some mornings. His schedule is different, maybe like my dad working in a steel mill at night. We think he had just woken up because he ordered a fruit plate. He clearly got more engaged as it went on. After David handed it to me, I told him, “My son is excited that I’m meeting with you, but he doesn’t know that you play basketball. He only knows you as Shaq Fu, The Legend.” He started cracking up. I was like, “That’s one of his favorite video games. For the first seven years of his life, the only thing he knew you did was to fight crime in the streets in a video game.”
Shaq started laughing. He ended up telling this fascinating story about the first Shaq Fu and why it sucked that they had partnered with Sega Genesis when Sega Genesis was falling apart. They rushed it out and it was analog. In the second one, they did a crowdfund to raise money for it. That was a digital one and that’s why it turned out to be a better seller. We got into this cool discussion around Shaq Fu and I hadn’t even told David I was going to go that route. I just had a feeling it might connect with him. We got into the heart of the meeting, where I transitioned that to, “Let me tell you why we chose you for a mentor.”
You and I have talked a lot about different interviews we’ve seen and liked. The reasons why people land and connect. I remember you and I were talking about an interview with Tim Ferriss and Jamie Foxx. You and I were so excited to listen. There’s more than one of them. I made a comment to you about like, “Jamie Foxx is incredible.” Your comment was like, “You can put a corpse up against Jamie Foxx because he is so talented. You give him a softball and let him take it.”
You’ve given David a good intro here with the military. That’s smart. It shows some connectability. The second thing you did is you said, “This guy has got this enormous personality. Let me throw something out there that’s near and dear. Let me make it personal.” That’s a good way to diffuse something and get somebody to show who they are. You got him opened up. You got him to talk. You got some food in him and then you pivoted to the business.
That’s where I said, “This is the first time we’ve done something like this. Our business is two years old. We chose you as a mentor and we weren’t going to lose this bid. I don’t care what the price was going to be because the more we thought of you as a mentor, the more we got excited about how you could help us at this stage of our part. Here’s why we see you as a very good mentor to us. You have spent your life supporting law enforcement. You are in law enforcement. You’ve been a police officer. You are an assistant deputy to the sheriff of Henry County. You spent time in a car theft unit for the LA Police Department. You are successful in business. You are an incredible marketer. We’re at the stage in our business where we’re thinking about our go-to-market plan and promotion. You’ve also been an early investor in some technology companies, which is what we are. Specifically, you are very active with your investment with Ring and we aim to be the Ring for our space in car security. We think that we have just as much runway as Ring did with security in the home.”
When you brought that up, did he have a reaction? If you watch Shark Tank and things along those lines, Kevin O’Leary and Cuban were always bashing people like, “We’re the next Uber.” I would imagine a bunch of tech companies would help the Ring. Did he have a visceral response to that?
None. He never said that at all. It was intentional that I said that. I was trying to get his attention that we have Ring aspirations and if he wanted to pick on that, he wasn’t about to. The nature and the brilliance of doing this from a charity standpoint, Shaq is thinking, “I’m going to give $11,000 of value to these guys. They paid a lot of money to spend an hour with me.” The last thing Shaq was about to do was crap on me or behave like that. If we had cold-called him and had a fifteen-minute elevator pitch to do this, he might have been more skeptical. By nature of the reason we were there, he was going to be very open and trying to be as helpful as he could because it was for a good cause.
That’s a good point. You need to know your audience and you know what you’re walking into. That’s smart that you know that.
He said, “Did you say car security?” I said, “Yes. It’s a growing problem, especially here in Atlanta and major cities. We started this company when David’s car was broken into for the third time and he couldn’t find a good solution from a technology perspective.” Shaq was nodding his head when I said locally. I noticed that he was engaged and I was like, “You’re nodding your head. Is your car has been broken into?” He went, “Two weeks ago at a gas station.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “I went in to get a pack of gum. I came out and my back window was broken out and they had been through my car.”
We put so much time into prepping for this. We thought of every contingency the way it could start. We thought, “What if he says, ‘I only have five minutes?’ What if he says, ‘I have fifteen minutes?’ What if he only gives us half an hour? What if he says this when it starts?” We thought of every what-if, just like you do when you prep for any big sales call. I did not prep for, “His car was broken into two weeks ago.” David and I looked at each other like, “Holy shit.” I’ve never been in a meeting this big where somebody offered me something that juicy that fast.Do everything unique for your client. Click To Tweet
The only approach at that point is to start asking questions. It’s, “Tell me about it. How did it happen? How long did you leave your car? Who were these people?” He was like, “I saw some kids. I thought they looked suspect when I was going in, but I didn’t want to profile them. I bought my gum. When I came out, there was glass on the ground. There was a guy pumping gas and he told me what he had seen. I was pissed at everyone. I was pissed at the kids and at this guy for not having stopped it. Did he just sat and watched it and then told me about it?” He was fired up and I was like, “Do you have car alarms? Do you have anything in your car that prevents anything?”
That was when he dropped this nugget that he owns 40 vehicles, 40 cars. He was like, “I got 40.” I was like, “Do you got any?” He was like, “No, I don’t have anything.” He knows Jamie Siminoff, who is the CEO of Ring. He said he texted Jamie after that and said, “Do you have anything? What are you working on?” Ring is working on a competitive product. They’re going to be a little different than the approach we’re taking, but Jamie had said, “Hold tight. We are working on something.” We got him to talk for a while about the pain he felt. I transitioned it to, “If you could have any device in your vehicles to protect it, what would you want it to do?”
If he didn’t start describing the device we had in our backpack, he was like, “It needs cameras. I want to see the punks that did this because, without witnesses, there’s nothing. You just file a police report, but we’re not doing anything. If you don’t have a picture of it, you can’t do anything. I want pictures. I want cameras around my car, just like in my house that is recording everything that happened inside and outside of my car.” I was biting my finger at this point to not say, “We have that.” I was biting my finger like, “Let him talk and unwrap the onion.” It was like, “What else?” He was like, “I need GPS. If they did take off of my car, I want to follow them wherever they go.” I was like, “He is describing our device.” He was like, “I want to keep them out of my car. I don’t know how you would do that.”
I was looking at Dave and he was doing everything he can not to smile. We were trying to keep our shit together because we have a computer with a little deck of computer renderings of all of our devices, products and a little cartoon explainer video that you’ve seen. We built some custom pictures just for Shaq that have the little sleeves that we put over the device that have a Shaq jersey from LSU. We switched the Starbucks cup that goes in the cup holder of our device to a Pepsi can because he loves Pepsi. We did everything unique for him, but we were trying not to pull it out.
He kept going and then he helped us. He was like, “What are you working on?” I was like, “I’m glad you asked. Can we open up this computer and show you our device?” We walked through it. David told the story a little bit and we showed him all the devices and renderings. This was another twenty minutes. He loved it. He was like, “This is brilliant. I love this. Let me ask you a question about this.” In every slide, we would go to and all the different products that we were looking at, he was like, “That’s going to sell and do well. That right there, I’ll buy 40 of them right now. I’ll get one for every car.”
He was getting more excited because if you think about Shaq, he just signed up to give an hour of his time for charity. We could have been another charity organization asking if he would do a commercial or come see the kids. I’m sure he has done this before, but I’m sure he has not run into a tech company talking about their product, either. You could tell he was starting to realize, “This is a different kind of meeting. This could be a nice opportunity I’m walking into,” because he was getting more excited. We went through our deck and it went well. That led to some conversations about law enforcement and police departments.
He was talking about how hard it is to be a cop, why the crime of car theft and car break-ins is growing, respect and youngsters. He reached over. David was sitting next to him in a chair. David is 6’4″, 220. He grabbed his forearm. When I say grabbed his forearm, this is not a small forearm that David has, but all you can see was Shaq’s hand. From his wrist to his elbow, Shaq’s hand covered it all. He pulled away from me. Like a 2 out of 10, he gave me a little pull. David’s face was hilarious. He looked scared to death like, “What is happening? Shaq is squeezing my arm.” David gave it a little yank. Shaq yanked him back, pulled him forward and he went, “That’s resisting arrest. Now, give it a 6 out of 10.”
You could see David’s wheel spinning like a six for me or a six of what Shaq would feel as a six because I don’t think I can even do that. David gave it a good crank and pulled his forearm back. Shaq grabbed his arm and yanked back. This time, he slid his entire chair towards him like you are pulling a six-year-old towards you in a restaurant who was misbehaving. David was like, “What do I do to this?” He was like, “Now, you see what I’m talking about.” David was like, “I get it.” I was over here like, “My boy is getting manhandled by The Diesel, by a guy who used to manhandle Patrick Ewing.”
I was like, “This is unbelievably cool. I think this is great. Now, try punching him, Shaq.” It was hilarious. He was going through why it’s hard to be a police officer, but a device like this could help them because normally, there are no witnesses. It’s a little harder to do something about it. It could not have gone better all because he is a use case and everything in our homework is everything that Shaq invests in. You see him in commercials for The General Insurance.
Did you guys ask him that?
I know all of it because I’ve heard it on other podcasts. The reason why he is The General’s spokesman is he went to buy a $1,500 car when he was in college and they wouldn’t let him buy the car without proof of insurance. He had to get insurance. When he did, everyone was giving him insurance quotes that were higher than the price of the car. One of his friends told him, “Check out The General.” He went to The General and it was $200 a year. It was 10% of what everyone else’s was. When he got enough money to be able to endorse and he got into the NBA, he reached out to The General himself and said, “Let me help you because you guys were there for me when I needed you. These other insurance companies weren’t.” That’s why he’s with them.
All of his stories of everything he endorses, he doesn’t endorse anything that he doesn’t believe in because he cares about what people think about him. He endorses Pepsi because when he was a kid, he hated Coke and he liked Pepsi. He has a hilarious story about Icy Hot and a trainer rubbing on the inside of his thigh. It got a little too high to his nether region and he had to come out of a game because it was burning. He was like, “If that shit works out well, I got to go endorse them.” In everything he does, he has to believe in it. He only gets involved in things that he thinks can change the world. That’s a direct quote from him that he got from Jeff Bezos. He said he heard Jeff Bezos say that and so he does the same. He invests in Papa John’s because he loves Papa John’s Pizza.
Wheaties wanted to put him on their box. His agent called and said, “Wheaties wants you on their box.” He said, “No.” They said, “Why?” He said, “I can’t stand Wheaties. I’m a Frosted Flakes guy.” He never did Wheaties because he didn’t like their cereal. He ended up doing Frosted Flakes. He got on that box instead. In everything he does, he has to be invested in it. He invested in Ring because someone came to his house, a huge mansion in Florida. He told us the story again of getting into Ring, but I heard it on multiple podcasts. He got involved in it because someone came and gave him an $80,000 quote to put in a security system in his house. He was like, “Get the hell out of here.”
He went to The Home Depot, looked to see what they had and bought the Ring doorbell. He liked it so much that he had his agent reach out to the CEO of Ring to say, “I could help you sell this.” It was only because he owned it himself and believed in it. We knew that about Shaq. It was so fortuitous for us that he was a use case. He was a person with a problem that our device was looking to solve. We knew he was a high opportunity target because he has been a police, law enforcement and has done Ring Security, but the fact that his car has been messed with was big for us.
Why don’t you give us a couple of takeaways from the meeting? What do you want to leave us with in this meeting?
The meeting ended up going a little over two hours to the point where he was almost late. It was after 8:00 and he had to be on national TV at 9:00 at the TNT Studios right around the corner. One of my big takeaways, which is the same takeaway I always have, is prep is everything. We prepped so much that the conversation flowed because we knew a lot of things already and how he might respond to certain things. We were able to interject them at different points of the conversation. The fact that David took this swing with the startup, especially one that’s hardware where you have to get attention. You have to take a certain number of swings. That could go nowhere. This could have been an $11,000 waste of money.Don’t endorse anything you don’t believe in. Click To Tweet
It’s hard to get your arms around a direct return. Sometimes you have to take different swings. All of our prep helped. The way we thought about how we were approaching it, where we were and what we were doing all helped. It was a stroke of brilliance that it was for charity because he was very open to listening to what we had. It was billed as a mentoring session and we wanted to get mentored. The worst-case scenario for us is we were going to learn from Shaquille O’Neal. He told us all about his time with Ring. With that device, he told us how they marketed his ideas, what worked, what didn’t work and what people liked about it.
He had 100 ideas for us on our device and they were very good ones. He was like, “Someone big enough is going to rip this out.” We were trying to show him how hard that would be to rip out, but for him, anything is easy to rip out of that cup holder, even though it anchors in because his hands are so frigging big. We had to explain to him, “An average human is not getting this out, but yes, Shaq, you could get it out if you wanted to steal something out of my car.” That was hilarious. We weren’t in a hurry to sell anything. We were okay with just mentoring and having a discussion.
We didn’t act like fanboys. We weren’t there asking for autographs of a jersey. We showed him appropriate respect. We had sports jackets on button-down shirts. We did so much homework that we were able to drop a lot of information about him. There’s no doubt Shaq left thinking, “Those guys did their homework on me and my background and why they wanted to talk to me.” At some point in any meeting, you got to close. It was going well. It was probably 1 hour and 45 minutes in. It got to a place where we had talked enough and I said, “Shaq, I’m not going to beat around the bush here. We want to work with you. How do we partner?”
He was great. He listed three things right away. He was like, “One, I can help you all raise money and get invested myself. Two, I can help you market and promote it. Three, I’ve got a big network and my network is your network now. I don’t invest in anyone unless I like them personally and they’re my friends. I’m going to consider you friends right now. I want you to know that and I want to help you no matter what.” I was like, “I appreciate that. I also don’t want you to do anything for charity anymore. If we’re going to work together, I want you to be compensated for it. I want you to feel like this is a profitable venture for both of us. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything just for friends. We would love you to get involved in the company.”
To the point where he followed up with, “When is our next meeting?” I didn’t ask him that. Normally, you think about all your appointments with customers. You’re always the one trying so hard to close that next meeting. They’re blowing you off and saying, “I got this and that. Call me later.” He was like, “When is our next meeting?” We were like, “Tomorrow? I’m still in town.” He laughed. It was like, “I got a lot going on right now with TNT and the playoffs I need to get through the next few weeks. In the next meeting, I want to have some of my finance people there, my management people. You could come and we could meet up and talk about this what this would look like.” His manager walked over and liked a lot of the products. He was a great guy. We’re going to see if he wants to come over to the office and see a little bit more.
We can never talk to Shaq again. I don’t know. This is still early. This is raw. We both left feeling optimistic that we’re going to work with Shaq again and he is going to get involved in the company in a bigger way. What that looks like, we don’t know. There are a lot of different ways that could look. I’m not going to presume what he would think that means. I have to think that we’re going to find some way for him to be involved as he wants to be in the company because the next phase of our business, once we have a production product that works his attention, that guy could help us quite a bit from that perspective and his knowledge of working inside of businesses and growing businesses. There are not many people that are on par with him for something like that.
What I come up with is a few things in closing. Is there anything you want to fundamentally add or can I go into a bit of a wrap?
I’ll add one. There were a couple of surreal moments. Him manhandling David was one of them. Us joking about Shaq Fu and a few other times where we started clowning were surreal. Probably the most surreal moment of the meeting for me was after he said, “When is the next meeting?” He pulled out his phone, which is giant, but it doesn’t look giant in his hand. He was holding it. He opened it up and handed it to me. In his hand, it looks like a regular phone, but when I hold it, it’s like holding a mini iPad. It’s like this massive phone that looked normal in his hand, but then I’m holding them, I was like, “Holy shit. It’s like an iPad phone.”
In it is a new contact and he was like, “Type your contact information in there.” I typed, “Ian Mathews, Keep Technologies.” I typed my cell phone and email address. He took it back from me. He looked at it and went, “You look like an Ian Mathews.” David was cracking up. I don’t understand it and I was like, “What does that even mean, Shaq?” He went, “You’ll never know.” He started laughing at me. He took it and a second later, popping up into my phone, is a text message saying, “This is Shaq and his email address.” A surreal moment for both of us is both of us now have Shaq’s cell phone and email address in our cell phones. Showing that to IJ was fun that I got a text message from Shaq and he is now on my cell phone. That made my son’s day to see that.
As soon as he had you programmed in his number, did you look at him and say, “No booty calls?”
No, I did not. I didn’t have any jokes. He had jokes for me, though, “You look like an Ian.” In the meeting, he was like, “You know who would like to invest in something like this? The owner of the Sacramento Kings.” He pulled it up on his phone and showed it to David. He was like, “Write that name and phone number down.” He gave us the owner of the Sacramento Kings’ mobile number. David was writing it down. He was like, “Tell him that Shaq told you to reach out to him.” Shaq is a minority owner of the Kings. He gave us multiple contexts at that level like billionaires and said, “You should contact them.” We’re not getting out ahead of our skis on something like that. What we want to make sure happens is we have this follow-up meeting with him and his people. It was incredibly encouraging and exciting. There’s no doubt.
Here are some of the takeaways that I have for this. David saw this as an opportunity. The first thing is he sees an opportunity where others don’t. This could lead somewhere incredible or absolutely nowhere. With sales, marketing and branding, sometimes that’s what things are. It’s an inexpensive reach for what could potentially be a huge thing. What I hear in that is, David is so invested in this as you are as well. He sees an opportunity that others might miss. Something as benign as a charity auction, he is like, “How does this help us?” The first thing is like, “What could potentially be an opportunity?” That’s a neat takeaway.
I’ll get into this first, sales. You can sell too early, but you guys are mired in a lot of technical stuff. You’re focused on design, building and inventing something new. You and I have done a podcast before about Jobs and the Apple TV. These are no easy accomplishments. You’re creating something new. You think about spinning plates with creation, but while you’re doing that, you also have to keep your eyes open for sales opportunities because eventually, you’re going to have to do that. Not that there’s anything to say about it. People who do startups are fiscally rewarded in amazing ways. You’ve got to realize you got to do everything. You can’t just have one pitch or be doing one thing at a time. You got to think of, “How do I do all of these different things at once?” Even though you’re focused on the design side, having the ability to go back and also sell is a big thing, even if it’s early like it is now.
You also know the deal and it’s probably magnified in a company that’s funded this big. David needs to be the chief fundraiser and the chief legal. We’re working to get ten patents. Our intellectual property is going to be a big part of what this company is valued at because that’s our moat. He is got to be all over the design engineering. He is thinking about production, “Where are we going to manufacture this? What country? Which partner are we going to use? Components?” He is thinking about programming. We have every different kind of engineer.
All of that stuff is great, but how are you going to sell and market it? My role is to try to help him with all of that stuff. I don’t add a lot of value to component selection, programming or engineering, but I can help him with fundraising, IP, marketing, sales or promotion. My job as his first investor and equity partner is to try to take as much off of his plate or at least help him with that stuff and keep him thinking about it as much as possible because he is pulled in a lot of directions.
To summarize, you need to compartmentalize parts of your life, but you never can lose sight of the big vision. If you guys build the most amazing product and don’t sell anything, this thing is a failure. Even if you’re ingrained in the building part, you have to also say, “We need to bring a product to market. We need it to be sellable.” People are rewarded in huge ways that invent or CEOs of companies, but it is not an easy task and it requires every damn skill imaginable. You’re not a Mad Men fan the way I am, but this entire thing reminds me of a scene. It’s towards the latter part of Mad Men and always elusively, there’s Dow Chemical and Don Draper wants Dow Chemical.Be invested in everything you do. Click To Tweet
He forces his way into a meeting. He doesn’t use charity, but he says, “We’re coming in.” They sit in the lobby for three hours, waiting. When they finally get in, the meeting lasts three minutes. What’s incredible about the meeting is something that happened in this conversation. It started off rocky. Yours was different in the start, but they pivoted and asked Don Draper like, “Tell us about our business.” He went line by line on their business. This takes place in the 1960s. Don Draper is very serious. He was there with Sterling, who is less serious.
One of the guys from Dow Chemical looks at him and goes, “Tell me about napalm.” Roger Sterling goes, “You mean the stuff that kids outside are protesting about?” Don Draper looks him in the face. He blows off the BS comment and looks straight at him. I won’t do it as articulately, but the point is, he says, “It’s a chemical. It’s a product that’s built.” He relates it back to, “The important thing is if our soldiers, boys and war need it, Dow Chemical makes it.” That’s how he did the summary. What I think is incredible about it is he took a bunch of BS, pushed to the side and went right to the heart of the matter.
What I hear in this conversation with Shaq is similar to me. I hear you, guys. You are pros. You dressed appropriately. You didn’t ask for interviews and drink beforehand. You handled the meeting right. You did all this prep. It fell in your lap that this guy had a car break-in. You didn’t know that, but you were so ready. When the moment came, you had everything ready. There’s a difference between doing research and having it on recall at any moment. That’s what I think set you guys apart. You were in that mode where you had a recall.
We were ready for thousands of questions and you only use 5% of it. That’s how you overprepare. You’re ready for about anything that comes your way and you prepare it. For me, a big takeaway, there are lots of good basketball players that had incredible careers but have not had such great post-careers as Shaq. One thing that stood out to me is he is an incredibly nice human being. He is a nice guy. He is big, considerate and polite. He is funny when he needs to be. He has got incredible emotional intelligence, but I left there thinking, “There’s a reason why he seems to be everywhere and involved in everything because people want to work with the guy.” Even the reason he was there in the first place is because he was giving his time to a charity organization. That struck me. He is a celebrity, but he is a real guy.
The last point I want to make is this. When you go into a meeting or a situation, sometimes you get star-struck, excited or something happens. What I think you did incredibly well is you looked at your watch and realize you’re 1 hour and 45 minutes into this meeting. This man has a hard stop at this point in time, “I came here to close.” Instead of getting caught up in the moment, the last thing you did is you said to him, “You’re closed. You’ve already stated it. We want to work with you.” I’m guessing you practiced that in some way multiple times. You were ready for it. You didn’t let the moment go by without stopping the conversation and making sure you set it. Go ahead and talk about that because that’s critical.
It was important at that point. We had all shown enough enthusiasm for working with each other without saying it. It was important for him to know that we wanted to work with him. We didn’t just come there to mentor. We would be thrilled to partner with someone with his talents. To me, you only close when you earned the right to close. I felt we had earned it by what we shared together and what he had shared with us. I felt we could add a lot of value to his life. I felt confident that we had shared enough at that point. I didn’t want to leave that meeting wondering whether he was in or not.
He could have said, “I love what you’re doing. I got too much on my plate for another tech company.” That would have been a polite way of blowing us off and I probably wouldn’t have closed three more times if he would have just said that. I want to know, “Would you like to get involved in our business?” I wanted to hear a yes or no at that point because then we can decide what’s next. We can all move on at that point. If the answer is yes, then we have a lot of things we can do. If the answer is no, that’s helpful information, too. “This was a great time. We enjoyed ourselves. We learned a lot from you and we are probably not going to do anything else after this.”
This comes back into prep, knowing where you are and what’s the point of the meeting? Are we wearing T-shirts? Are we asking for autographs? No. This is a purposeful event. It’s a cool and fun story, but it takes it from the fun story to something that has potential because of the preparation and the seriousness with which you took it. When the moment was there, because he is an intimidating presence, saying, “I need to do what I came here to do, which is to put this on the table, close and find out, ‘Are we going forward or not?'” You did it. It seems to me, at a minimum, it leads to at least a second conversation with him. Who knows where it goes from there, but it’s at least the second conversation. If you don’t do that close, you don’t know if you get there and you may not.
When you say he is an intimidating presence, he is and I think Shaq knows that. He spent his whole life trying to make people feel comfortable around him that are intimidated by how powerful and strong he is. He has developed a good ability to make you feel comfortable and ignore some of that intimidation factor of his size. There are moments where you can feel it like, “This is a guy you would not want to cross when he gets fired up.” In general, his emotional intelligence is off the charts. He has the ability to smile, tell a little joke, soft play some things, but he is good at making you feel comfortable around him to where you’re talking to him and you’re not realizing you’re talking to Shaq, the international brand. You’re talking to a smart guy.
With all that being said, that’s another reason that people could lose sight of, “I came here to try and close and find an investor or a partner.” Even though he is incredible at that, you can also get caught up in this, but this is part of the discipline.
What could have happened is we could have left that meeting without that ending and felt like it was an incredibly successful meeting because we all had fun and we were all saying a bunch of things. To me, it’s never a successful meeting if we don’t have a next step of what’s happening and a commitment. If all we had was fun, it would have been a successful meeting because David and I had a blast, but that’s $11,000 of investor’s money. You guys don’t care that we had fun with Shaq. You would like to see something come out of it. I had to pivot at some point to make it a tangible return on what we did.
It goes from a fun event to a business meeting because of all the little things. The most important thing was you earned the ability to close and then you didn’t get either intimidated or out-personality to not close. You did the last step, which is the close. What you teach anybody in closing is if you do enough small closes along the way, the big close at the end is pretty easy, but you can miss that. That’s part of it. It’s like, “We have direct next steps. This goes from being a cool story to potentially something more because of everything that went into that.”
What was great is he ended up closing us a little bit, too. He asked us that closing question of, “When is the next meeting?” That was pretty neat. When it happened, it was like, “We’re all on the same page. This is awesome.” It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that I hope becomes lots more in a lifetime after. It’s one of the most fun two hours I’ve ever spent in business. No doubt.You only close when you earn the right to close. Click To Tweet
What you can clearly admit at this point is, “My preparation has allowed me to do this close.” This was a hell of an episode. I’m proud of you. This is cool and neat. I’m thrilled to see where it goes for you, David, Keep, my money and Shaq Fu.
I knew you would have to end with your money. It’s still always got to be a little bit about Frank.
It’s the reason we get along so well.
That’s why I love you. I’ll talk to you next time.