Covenant Secret, The: An Inspirational Tale About Uncovering the 7 Master Keys of Wisdom and Wealth

You will forge a meaningful path to success when you discover the Covenant Secret. Uncovering the seven keys to super-success in life and business can be a simple as reading a tale, a parable, if you will, especially when the teller of the tale is the best-selling co-author of the Wall Street classic “The Fall of the House of Hutton” and the founder and CEO of the fin-tech startup, StockSquirrel, John Feloni.

ISBN: 9781735979236
Author: John Feloni   
Format: Paperback (5.25 x 8), ebook (epub)
Page Count: 128
Publish Date: March 2022
List Price: $14
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FORGE A MEANINGFUL PATH TO SUCCESS WHEN YOU DISCOVER THE COVENANT SECRET

Uncovering the seven keys to super-success in life and business can be a simple as reading a tale, a parable, if you will, especially when the teller of the tale is the best-selling co-author of the Wall Street classic “The Fall of the House of Hutton” and the founder and CEO of the fin-tech startup, StockSquirrel, John Feloni.

“The Covenant Secret” tells the story of a fresh-out-of-business-school and intensely-focused-on-money entrepreneur, Bill Rand, whose startup company is not doing too well. Unbeknownst to him, Bill is about to embark on a journey of discovery guided by Tom Crawford, one of the world’s great entrepreneurs, a journey that will change Bill’s life — as well as his fortunes.

Travel with Bill as he learns the answers to these pressing and timely questions –

– What is business REALLY about?
– Is business solely about the money?
– Where do people fit into the business equation?
– How are misconceptions holding you back from your full potential?
– What’s at the heart of this new “stakeholder capitalism” idea?
– What changes can you make to maximize your efforts?
– Who (or what) are you ultimately serving with your business and in your life?

These are questions that, once answered, will open doors for you in life just as much as in business. “The Covenant Secret” takes the reader through all of the pivotal aspects of good business: investors, shareholders, customers, partners, employees, the communities they serve, and the planet on which we live. As you will see, all of these constitute what you will come to call the “Covenant Secret.”

The author wrote this business exemplum thirty years ago — and the message is relevant today, more than ever. As you read this wonderful modern-day parable, you will come to the undeniable conclusion that, in business and life, it’s about people and relationships. In fact, you’ll see that they are the only things that matter.

CONTENTS
Introduction

Chapter 1: People Are Stupid!
Where the young man experiences difficulties in his business

Chapter 2: It’s the People, Stupid!
Where the young man meets his mentor in a new way of thinking

Chapter 3: Relationship Management
Where the young man learns the secret of successful relationships

Chapter 4: Gratitude
Where the young man understands the truth about gratitude

Chapter 5: Customers
Where the young man learns that the law of success is service

Chapter 6: Partners
Where the young man comprehends the importance of trust and integrity

Chapter 7: Investors/Shareholders
Where the young man sees the power of influence as well as its source

Chapter 8: Employees/Co-workers
Where the young man comes to know the value of passion

Chapter 9: Community
Where the young man encounters the power of his beliefs

Chapter 10: The Relationship Professional
Where the young man learns the complete Covenant Secret

Hollywood Digest Review

Life advice books can often be highly overrated phenomenon’s. You think of someone who is a wannabe Tony Robbins, trying hard to get their fifteen minutes and more than fifteen bucks at dispensing cheap literary parlor tricks, plus pop psychology. Author John Feloni seems aware of this, and because of that he displays a rare, affable humility and sense of fun. Since Feloni clearly believes wholeheartedly in what he’s promoting, you get the sense he’s able to just enjoy himself as a writer.

That makes the read in of itself, titled The Covenant Secret: The 7 Master Keys to Wisdom and Wealth, much more ideologically delectable as an experience. A lot of self-help books can feel somewhat laborious, even the good ones. But the tonality and pacing of Covenant Secret is quick-witted and irreverent. Take, for instance, the title of the book’s second chapter – It’s the People, Stupid! Sometimes it’s good to just throw it on without any varnish, as Feloni repeatedly demonstrates.

Another aspect of the read driving this quality home is Feloni structuring the book like a novel. Similar to the way Dan Millman implemented life lessons in his work Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Feloni displays apt traits not only as an oral and ideological communicator, but as a good, old-fashioned storyteller to boot. “The following…is not true, although many incidents portrayed in it are,” Feloni disclaims at the beginning of the book.” He continues, “I chose a business parable format because of its utility in delivering timeless truths. I also chose fiction for the reason best captured in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes: ‘History tells lies about real people, fiction tells the truth about imaginary ones.’ Hopefully, I have written a story here that engages and entertains you, and says something that you find useful.”

Probably the part of the read standing out the most to me was in the book’s ninth chapter, titled Community. This is summarized as Where the young man encounters the power of his beliefs, Feloni writing: “…‘A community investment, when well thought out, can be strategic to the business…f you do this properly, you will learn that you can do well by doing good. Proper treatment of a company’s customers, employees, partners, and the communities where it does business is the best way to serve the interest of the business’ owners/investors—of this I am sure. I would not promote using corporate assets for purely altruistic reasons.

That would violate a business leader’s fiduciary responsibility. It must make business sense to do so, and my experience is that it certainly does.’” It’s through these pearls of wisdom, communicated through fully fleshed-out and three-dimensional characters, that Feloni makes the giving and sharing of ideas and hard knocks feel effortless. Part of why the titular ‘keys’ really feel like ideological keys is because of the way they’re so easily implemented and peppered throughout the read. The fact Feloni makes it entertaining is yet another feather in the cap.

Garth Thomas | Hollywood Digest


The Magic Pen Review

John Feloni’s new book is The Covenant Secret: The 7 Master Keys to Wisdom and Wealth. The book, as its title would suggest, is an effective mixture of fiction and actual, leadership advice. Feloni doesn’t mess around with clearly communicating the data and left-brain aspects of the read, but he’s able to seamlessly weave it into a genuinely compelling, original story. It’s not an easy thing to pull off, but Feloni manages to do so with mostly successful results. Take, for instance, the following excerpt: “‘In business, Bill, you know as well as I do, that sometimes what people do makes it easy to feel negative thoughts toward them.

The danger of such thoughts going unchecked is that if we allow them to take root, the result is returned bad behavior. Then we start treating people in the same negative way, and a toxic environment gets firmly established.’…Tom then recounted (to Bill) a true story that made his point of the power of Covenant relationships with employees. ‘In 1978, two of Ross Perot’s employees were taken as political prisoners in Iran. Perot put together a group of volunteers to break into the heavily guarded Iranian prison to free them and bring them home.

Everyone told Mr. Perot he was crazy. It was an impossible proposition. He couldn’t just march into a foreign country with some mercenary team and storm a prison. Who did he think he was? His answer is summarized in what he told Henry Kissinger, “These are my men. I sent them there, and I have to get them back!” And he did!’…To give Bill more to think about, Tom added, ‘It’s the Covenant Secret that bound Ross Perot to his people.’”

It’s this kind of entwining of the actual advice angle with the book’s overall narrative approach making things click. The thing I found myself singularly impressed by as a reader is how, despite a few rough patches here and there to be expected, Feloni makes this seem effortless. It never feels shoehorned in, or like one part of the book suffers because of the other. I haven’t seen that before in projects of this nature. Often educational reads masquerading as fiction can feel forced, inorganic, just flat-out wrong. But Feloni makes it all work, and frankly that feels like a miracle. And independent of that, it makes the learning aspect of The Covenant Secret actually feel fun. Especially earnest passages such as the following don’t come across as cloying, or overtly maudlin. They actually feel gratifying.

“Bill knew he had passion for his business and his vision, but he was upset that he had cared little—if at all—about what his people cared about, he never took the time to know them. He figured that if his company failed, then all the caring in the world wouldn’t matter,” Feloni writes in this vein. “He took comfort in the fact that as long as the company succeeded and people had jobs, he would bear the burden of being considered a bad guy. Bill realized that this was wrong thinking. It was not an (either/or proposition). He could treat people right and still have his company succeed. Actually, it was more than that. He was realizing that Laura and Tom were right — it would not succeed without his treating people right. He committed to changing his ways. He would be a leader!”

Kendall Townsend | The Magic Pen


Reader Reviews

Kenneth Osei-afriyie
“The Covenant Secret is like Gold Dust. I am reading it gradually in order to digest the contents very well as advised . . ..”

RBarran
“I was looking for something to read when I came across this little gem. The description intrigued me so I started reading, expecting to me amused at the very least. I wasn’t prepared for the profound life lessons which made me stop and think. This book is a quick read, but is packed with reminders about how to live well. Great, soul searching stuff. The writing was easy, like a conversation with a friend, which made reading quite enjoyable. I didn’t want to put it down until I found out what the Covenant Secret was. I’m glad I read this book, and will probably read it again.”

Sandra Hubbard
“This book says what needs to be heard around the world especially in the times we live in. The reminder I needed, the cold splash of water my heart required to jolt it from its stupor of complacency and cynicism that had set in. No matter the profession, this book is inspiring, insightful and exactly what I needed to hear for the season I am in.”

CJ
“This book is worth every penny spent on it. Inside you won’t find a bunch of facts and figures and fancy testimonials. Instead, you will find a fictional story that could absolutely be based off of a true story. This book reads like a movie and brought me in with the meaningful content that was shared. The everlasting principles of real success are shared within these pages. Enjoy!

SchmoozersDeals
“If you are a Christian, you will love this book. You will find that it imparts a message that speaks to your heart. If you are not a Christian, you will find portions of this book irrelevant.”

JC Gagnaire
You have to read this book. It’s a must. If you paid for “Think and Grow Rich” or “How To Win Friends and Influence People” then you’ve got your money’s worth from “The Covenant Secret”. This book will illustrate very simply the secret to human relations. I so much want to tell you the secret but I can’t because if I did I would do you and the book a disservice. The secret isn’t really a secret; we all know it but “The Covenant Secret” solidifies it. Start reading this amazing book NOW! It’s a fast and fun read. You’ll probably read it twice like I did so you can take notes. I recommend “The Covenant Secret” to CEO’s running billion dollar corporations, kindergarten school teachers and people who want to make a positive difference in their loved ones lives. Heck–I don’t even know John Feloni and I know for sure his book and writing style made a tremendous impact on my life. I’m very grateful for this book. Thanks again John.”

Virginia
“I enjoyed reading this book. It’s a relatively light read with good principles to do business by. Working on living the Covenant Secret.”

Sandy
“One of the best for anyone! Doesn’t matter if your in business or not. Great message for us all and very well written.”

Omar Bogan
“Very informative and really is useful info on how to be better mastering your thought process and being able to become more successful!!!”

skacz
“This was an enjoyable, easy read with a message similar to The Go-Giver. The auther takes a Christian/bibical based approach to the relationship side of business, but more as a point of reference. I did not feel like I was reading a religion based book, but a book which uses bibical relationship principles as a point of reference.”

cyndee
“I really enjoyed this book.”

jill demuth
“There are many instances that you should put the golden rule into effect, however we allow our current society dictate our views of other people. This book helps you to realize what we were put on this Earth for and the message God was sending us. I would recommend this book to anyone who is searching for guidance and direction.”

David Miles
“This is a very informative book that opened my eyes to many possiblities.”

Carla Lee Martinez
“This short story was insightful and powerful, put into a story we can understand. It’s all about your beingness and how you show up.”

Tamara
“It was an absolute great read with principles I will surely live by!”

Judy Mitchell
“This book provided the direction I was searching for. I am inspired to do and be more to others thus becoming more to myself.”

N. Khan
“I must admit that I am happy to have purchased this book, it truly gives you a perspective on one’s actions ‘man in the mirror’ scenario. I do recommend this book to any one serious about building relationships that last a lifetime.”

John Clay
“This book was an excellent read. The narration kept me engaged reading and wanting more. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to find solace in a good text.”

Lewis Jones
“The Covenant Secret is told in a simple, yet powerful story that anyone can relate to. The story can be applied to both business and personal relationships.”

John Feloni is the founder and CEO of Stock Squirrel, Inc., a new FinTech startup where John and his team intend to put a small dent in the Universe by democratizing stock ownership in a unique way: implementing the investment concept of Own Where You Shop and giving a voice to people in the companies they love. John is co-author of the bestseller, The Fall of the House of Hutton (1989, Henry Holt and HarperCollins), the story of the fall of the Wall Street powerhouse, EF Hutton. John will release three books with Kallisti Publishing Inc.: The Covenant Secret, a business parable that will be one of the first books to talk about the new concept of stakeholder capitalism; The Tollbooth; and Only the Golden Rule.

Chapter 1

People Are Stupid!

Where the young man experiences difficulties in his business…

“I NEED MONEY NOW!” Bill yelled like a spoiled ten-year-old. “But this economy is going to make it impossible for me to find investors!”

“Forget the economy, let’s move on!” Laura yelled.

“Forget the economy? Are you out of your mind? How do you forget the economy?” Bill replied.

“Whatever. It doesn’t matter, Bill.” Laura lowered her voice, trying to calm herself. “Maybe it’ll even be positive for us. Business failures will free up talent out there. We need to build a team right now.”

“You’ve lost it, Laura.” Bill was carrying on this meeting in his office with Laura while simultaneously searching for phone numbers of venture capitalists. “I need money. I need it desperately. Now with the world the way it is it will be tougher than ever. I’ve got to move quickly. I have to find money!”

“No, Bill, I’ll say it again: if we get the people, the money will come, with or without a bad economy. Here, look. I put together a list of people who graduated with us—the ones with the talent we need. I’ve talked to each of them. We can afford them and they’re ready to join us.” Laura ripped off a few pages from her yellow legal pad and put them on Bill’s desk. Bill ignored them, turned away and dialed the phone.

Six months earlier, upon graduating from MIT’s Sloan School with his MBA, Bill Rand did what a bunch of his hard-charging, highly-motivated classmates did: he went for it and started his own company. Bill wanted to capitalize on Internet-based products and services that promoted social networking, collaboration, and communication.

Bill believed that the Internet was all about relationships and that the really solid relationships in business were offline and owned by “professionals” like investment advisors, lawyers, and CPA’s. But these professionals had problems—their clients could now use the Internet to do their own research, get most of their questions answered and do business cheaply, if not for free. Bill strongly contended that the only real asset that remained for individual professionals was the value of their client relationships, and that in order to survive they had to do everything they could to secure them. Bill saw that a magnificent opportunity existed for the entrepreneur who could develop an inexpensive Internet-based relationship building application for individual professionals, and with it build communities for professionals to interact with each other and their clients. He decided that he would be that entrepreneur.

He applied everything he had learned in business school and put together a business plan for the creation of RelationshipPro, Inc. He developed a patent-pending process he called Professional/Client Linkage that would put state-of-the-art technology in the hands of individual professionals and make them the gateway to the Internet for their clients.

“I’m creating a whole new segment of the Internet.” Bill would claim to anyone who would listen. “I’m calling it P2C, professional-to-client.”

It was a bold and grand vision, but one not without its skeptics.

“There’s no way you can make this happen, Bill,” his finance professor said as he handed Bill back his business plan. “It’s pie-in-the-sky. You’re dreaming.”

“Yeah, I’m dreaming. So what?” was Bill’s answer. He was angry. He never liked being told he couldn’t do something. He was like that his whole life. Even as a kid, his father would take advantage of that aspect of his personality to get him to accomplish things. It made him more determined. Without knowing it, this professor’s criticism succeeded in motivating Bill more than his marketing professor whose judgment of the business plan was so positive she personally invested in the company.

That professor told him, “If you pull this off, Bill, you’ll be famous. And very, very rich.”

“What do you mean ‘if’?” was Bill’s response to her.

Those classmates who knew what he was doing wanted in. But he only felt comfortable offering a position and stock to his closest business school friend, Laura Drago. Laura loved Bill’s passion for the project and was sold on its commercial viability. The company’s business model projected that the company would actually be profitable within eighteen months, an uncommon thing for a startup. RelationshipPro was a big idea with huge potential, and Laura believed that Bill had the drive, discipline, technological savvy, and brain-power to pull it off. She jumped at the opportunity even though she knew Bill’s one big shortcoming—his inability to be more sensitive to the people side of running a business. From the onset she pleaded with him to bring aboard more of their classmates, but Bill felt that they would be too expensive to hire and initially unnecessary. He also didn’t trust any aggressive MBA-types other than Laura to have access to his ideas. He considered this prudent risk-aversion. Laura called it plain old paranoia.

When it came to dealing with people, the two were vastly different.

Unlike Bill, Laura trusted people and loved working with them. Her accomplishments always included others while Bill’s were individual in nature. She played team sports like softball, basketball, and field hockey. He excelled in individual sports like tennis, golf, skiing, and squash. She was a social butterfly, an organizer of events, editor of her college newspaper, and president of her high school class—a consummate networker and team player. He was national honor society, a statewide science fair winner, and a math team all-star—your basic nerd.

Bill always operated alone. It was the only way he knew, and it worried Laura. She saw this solitary tendency of Bill’s as a problem for a CEO in a startup company and felt that at some point it would become a serious liability. She was right. And that point came quickly, just as Laura feared. Bill’s aloof nature was now threatening the very viability of their company.

Laura went back to her office. She leaned back in her chair with her hands behind her head, looked up at the ceiling and pondered the problem she had with Bill. To her the issue was simply money vs. people. She was clearly on the “people” side and Bill was becoming more and more obsessed with money. Within a moment her point was proven when Jack Murray, one of the company’s web designers, frantically rushed into Laura’s office.

“Laura, help me!” Jack said in a grade school whine. “Pleeease.”

“What’s up, Jack?” Laura said.

“Bill is going to kill me!”

“So, what else is new?”

“No, really, Laura, he is! He wanted all that new code written by this morning. He said that every minute without it was costing him money! I told him it was impossible, but…”

“Oh no, you’re right, he will kill you,” Laura said. “Didn’t anyone help you?”

“No one could. No one had any time. He’s riding everyone, Laura. I worked at Microsoft for five years and they were tough, but this is ridiculous.”

Laura thought about her own experience with a tyrannical manager when she worked as an intern at a major stock brokerage firm during her undergraduate days. The guy constantly rode his brokers. Laura swore to herself that she would never work in such an environment—now she found herself party to creating one. Ughh!

Just then Maxine Carmichael, the company’s chief financial officer, stuck her head in the room and shouted, “Bill’s on the warpath, everybody watch out. I need your help, Laura. Please come to my office ASAP and save me.” And she was gone.

“Laura, this can’t go on,” Jack continued. “Bill’s driving us all nuts. I’m ready to hang myself. Do you realize this company is near mutiny?”

“I know, Jack. Let’s give Bill a little leeway; he’s under a lot of pressure.”

“Laura, we’re all under pressure. We’re supposed to be a team, remember? But I don’t think Bill knows the meaning of the word.”

“I know. I’ll figure something out.”

“OK, Laura, just understand, we’re all counting on you. Go tame that lion in the corner office. If you don’t, well…”

“We’ll be all right. I appreciate your confidence in me, Jack. I really do. Just give me a little time. And lighten up on Bill if you can. He’ll come around, I promise. No revolts yet, please.”

Jack nodded and left, but not before peeking out the doorway to make sure Bill wasn’t there.

Laura then went to see Maxine. After she listened to Maxine spout off about Bill’s irritating ways, Laura did her best to calm her down. She realized she was doing this kind of thing more often than was healthy—for the people she worked with, the company they were dedicated to making a success, and for herself. Frustration and despair engulfed her. She left Maxine’s office, put on her sweats and went for a run. She needed to clear her head and figure out what to do.

While Laura was out, Bill again chewed out Maxine for not producing adequate reports. He pounded her for numbers, numbers, and more numbers and hammered her for failing to deliver results—results that Maxine clearly had no control over.

“This isn’t fun anymore, Bill,” was all Maxine could say.

Bill, annoyed and frustrated, retreated to his office and closed the door. This isn’t working, he thought. They’re driving me crazy! I’ve got to get them to work harder. I’ve got to work harder. I’ve got to raise money! NOW!

Later that night Bill and Laura met at a local pub for a special “two-member executive committee” meeting called by Laura. When the beer was served, Bill raised his glass and said, “To money. I am going to get us some—immediately!”

Laura raised her glass to his and said, “Oh, really? And where, may I ask?”

“I don’t know yet, my friend. But I will get it. Just watch.”

“Yeah, well, anyway, you’re concentrating on the wrong issue. We should be…”

“Why isn’t anyone getting this?” Bill interrupted as if not even hearing her. “I can’t understand why venture capitalists aren’t throwing money at us.”

The frustration Bill was feeling was a result of the mixed messages he and Laura were getting from venture capitalists. Sometimes it seemed as if the financiers spoke in tongues. After presentations of the RelationshipPro plan to various investment firms, there was always interest generated but then came some lame excuse as to why the deal couldn’t be done. The venture capitalists’ exit lines almost uniformly went something like this: “At this point in time the firm’s investment committee is not putting any money into new companies,” or “We already have a commitment in your space” or “Unfortunately, we are invested in a company that has a similar business proposition.” And they all ended with, “Keep us in the loop. We’re interested in how you do.”

From her past dealings with venture capitalists, Laura knew that their rejections were always sugar coated and their doors always left open, just in case the startup in question became successful and needed a second or third round of financing. Everyone wants in at that point. Laura knew the game.

But occasionally, as Laura saw it, these meetings with potential investors revealed a more pointed issue: investors were shying away because the RelationshipPro management team lacked the depth necessary to execute such an ambitious business plan. Bill firmly disagreed, but the objection was raised several times. Laura continuously tried to convince Bill that people were the issue, plain and simple. She also knew that no serious money would be raised until it was addressed.

“Why not just believe what they tell us, Bill,” she said. “It’s pretty much the same thing: ‘People!’ We need people! We need a better team, Bill. And we also need partners and customers. It’s people, people, people, and we need them now!”

“But they’re wrong. Once I have enough money, I can get the technology built, the right systems in place. I can build a more scalable platform, I can buy state-of-the-art applications, I can advertise and promote, and I can get the markets ready for a massive product launch. Then I can build a team, negotiate partnerships, acquire customers, do all those people things.”

Laura shook her head in frustration. He’s just not getting it. And once again she noted that, as always, Bill spoke in terms of “I” instead of “we.” In a joking way, she banged her forehead on the table until Bill stopped her.

“Bill, you’re killing me! You’ve got it backwards. It’s about people, Bill.”

“Ahhh,” Bill said with a wave of his hand. “People are overrated. People are stupid!” he added, tongue in cheek, firmly putting Laura on the defensive, which is exactly what he intended.

“What?” she yelled. “Can you hear yourself, Bill? Do you think you can do this alone? Well, you can’t. Do you know that you’re driving everybody in the office nuts? You’ve got to change the way you handle our team or we’re going to lose them. Everyone is afraid of you. How would you like to work for a boss who demands from you more than you can possibly give?”

Bill was quiet for a moment as he thought about what Laura said. He knew it was true, but that didn’t make it any easier to hear it. It bothered him, sure. He wished it wasn’t so. But he didn’t think that it was critical. Anyway, what could he do? He had a business to run. His reflective moment passed quickly and he said simply, “I don’t have time for people-pleasing right now, Ms. Manager.”

When they disagreed about business, Bill would always tease Laura, patronizing her inclination to take care of others. Laura was older than Bill, thirty-three to his twenty-five. She had spent a few years in management before going to business school, unlike Bill who went to b-school straight from his undergraduate college. Laura gained some of her management experience working at an Internet startup. Before that, she had worked selling financial plans to individuals and then as a sales manager in a large insurance company. Bill knew she ran interference for him all of the time, and he was appreciative, but boosting morale was definitely not part of his job description as he saw it. He was CEO. He had to make things happen. He had to watch costs and sign checks. It wasn’t always fun, especially in a cash crunch. But he was the one on the hook for the money. He was the one with the commitment to their “angel” investors. He was the one who borrowed money from friends and family. It was his name and reputation on the line. If RelationshipPro failed, then, well, that was just not an option.

Bill continued. “If they could just grasp what I’m trying to do I wouldn’t have to be so hard on them. They’re working on something great here. Come on, Laura, they should see that. I’m bringing humanity to the Internet. I’m…”

“Wait, wait. Stop!” Laura interrupted. “Listen to what you just said!” Laura started laughing. “My God, can’t you see the irony in the fact that you see people as getting in your way of making the Internet people-centric? Listen to yourself, Bill, you sound silly!”

“Oh, real funny, Laura,” Bill said with a reluctant chuckle. Put that way, he did see the absurdity of his statement. A concession was not forthcoming, however.

He took a sip of his beer and continued his attack from a different angle. “I’m trying to build a company here, Laura, not a daycare center. Remember what Peter Lynch said? ‘You should invest in a company that even a fool can run, because someday a fool probably will.’”

“Oh God, Bill, that’s on how to invest in a company, not run one.”

“Well, I want to build a company that is fool proof.”

Laura rolled her eyes and hoped that a fool wasn’t already running it.

“Don’t look at me like that, Laura” Bill said with a grin. “I know exactly what you’re thinking.”

“Oh you do, do you?” She knew she’d been caught.

“I most certainly do. I’m no fool! I just want to create a company that can survive in case the next CEO is. You’re next in line, aren’t you?”

Laura raised her glass, “Touché.”

She put her glass down and continued her attempt at building a case. “Seriously, Bill, you can’t will this vision of yours into reality. If we stay the course we’re on we will fail. Do you understand that?”

“I will not fail, Laura!” Bill snapped. He was haunted by the possibility that he would not prevail. In the past, when faced with pressure to achieve, Bill would simply work harder, as he was now. But it wasn’t working this time. He was learning that in building a company, his personal work ethic went only so far. This frustrated him and made him feel out of control. He knew that his style of leadership was viewed by some as management through terror, but he had to keep going, stepping over everything and everyone in his path, doing whatever it took. He would not let anything or anyone stop him. He had to succeed.

Neither spoke for a moment. Laura sighed in frustration. Bill knew he was pushing her away and he didn’t want that.

So this time he did concede, albeit reluctantly. “So what do you suggest we do, Laura?”

“Well, while I was running today I got a flash of inspiration,” Laura answered.

“Oh?”

“Yes. Go see Tom Crawford!”

Tom Crawford was the founder and CEO of Shopper’s Emporium, the world’s largest retailer. He was the current Corporate America poster-boy. He had brilliantly turned his old-line retailer into an e-commerce superpower. His corporate transformation had become the model for the application of Internet technologies and was being studied at all of the nation’s top business schools. Fortune magazine had just named him “Business Leader of the Decade” and Money magazine had recently ranked Shopper’s Emporium the “#1 Best Place to Work in America;” and to make Laura’s idea even better, its national headquarters was located in Boston, just a two-minute walk from RelationshipPro’s office.

A year earlier, Crawford had given a speech to Bill and Laura’s class at the Sloan School. He talked about what he called “The Profession of Leadership.” He defined leaders as people who have clear visions of a better future and are able to inspire others to work toward creating that future. He outlined the disciplines one must practice in order to master the craft of leadership, the commitments to people one must make and the core philosophies one must hold in order to successfully lead others. It was a refreshing approach, a spiritual approach to leadership. Bill ate it up. He was especially inspired by what Crawford had said about how seriously such a leader regards each and every relationship, similarly to the way a good professional honors the sanctity of relationships with clients. Crawford had referred to these relationships as moral contracts, sacred covenants between people. It was from this speech that Bill was inspired to create a business around the utilization of the Internet as a tool to build such relationships. It was indeed ironic that Bill was now having relationship problems of his own.

“Tom Crawford?” Bill asked, taken aback.

“Sure,” Laura said. “He inspired you once. Maybe he can inspire you again.”

“To do what? I need money. I have to talk to venture capitalists. What could Tom Crawford do for me?”

“Maybe he has an idea or two that can get us rockin’. I don’t know, just ask him for help.”

“Why would he even talk to me?”

“Why wouldn’t he? Don’t you remember how in his speech he said that after we enter the business world we should contact him to share our experiences? He said hearing about new business ventures created by young people keeps him young.”

“Yeah, I guess so, but I don’t have the time to talk about anything but money,” Bill said unconvinced.

“Please, Bill,” Laura begged with her hands folded prayer-like. “Just contact him. Who knows what can happen? You know, Bill, not all people are stupid.”

Bill laughed and took a deep breath. I guess it couldn’t hurt to just contact the guy, he thought, but I can’t waste any time right now, I just can’t.

Laura saw Bill’s hesitation and immediately added, “I’ll make a deal with you, Bill.”

“I’m listening,”

“Meet with him—I’m sure he’ll meet with you—and when you get back I’ll work with you 24/7 to raise money.” Laura didn’t know why she felt so strongly that Bill should meet with Tom Crawford, but the man was a master with people and in her gut Laura felt that some of that was bound to rub off on Bill.

Laura extended her hand out to Bill. “Deal?”

Bill didn’t like being put on the spot, but it wasn’t often that Laura pushed him so hard. He also knew that Laura would walk over hot coals for him and it was probably about time he did something for her. What the hell, he thought and shook Laura’s hand. “OK, it’s a deal.”

“Excellent! Thank you!” Then Laura ordered another pitcher of beer. This was worth a celebration.

The next morning Bill e-mailed Tom Crawford. Almost immediately, he got a reply, directly from Crawford, inviting him to his office the following Monday. Now excited to know he would be sitting with a business legend, Bill e-mailed his response: I’m there.

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