A random conversation reconnected me with the success that can come from tackling the simple problems. 

Episode 662017

The huge impact we can have by focusing on simple problems.

The late investor Eugene Lang solved simple things. He sought out patent owners who had invented solutions to little problems. He owned basic technology patents like: videotapes, spreadsheets, electronic keyboards, bar codes. He used licensing and lawsuits to amass a fortune. Simple stuff right?

He then used this approach to make a huge impact on a simple problem.

But, I am drawn to how his fortune helped a simple problem – education for poorer kids. His impact was enormous. He started the “I have a dream foundation” that sent dozens thru college – gave away more than $150,000,000!

I remember interviewing with him after college and his joy and motivation came from telling of the success of “his kids.”

Born poor, his father taught him to use the gifts he had to make a living and to read and to help others.

Once we tackle the goals of our work – for me helping ip based businesses forge new VAR channels – by applying simple clarity – we can move on to have an impact focused on simple outcomes. What is it about the Lang story that you can use to put into place for yourselves and your own goals?


His business model was straight forward.  Find patents for basic technologies that were not being used by the inventor.  Give the inventor a significant piece of the back end and aggressively pursue infringers if a license agreement could not be forged. Often they were not forged so he brought lawsuits and used the tools of law to protect what he owned.  

The work required looking at all kinds of patents and making some guesses but from what I know, Lang had a share the risk opportunity.  

LESSON #1: Know the simplest form of leverage of your business

For Lang it meant to know that a patent is an exclusive right to use, make etc.  A legal monopoly. Once he owned that right, he could either get an agreement from users to pay or sue them.

Task: Often clients complicate their leverage.   Taking the time to truly understand which product or offering gives you the most leverage in the marketplace, makes the task of going to market simpler.  

Result:  Less wasted time on low-margin offerings that are sexy but profitless.  

I can’t stress how important this shift has been for me

LESSON #2: What motivates your employees, partners or you to do what you do?

I am not like most.  I prod to understand if clients want to forge change or just want money. But what are they going to do with the money? What do their employees and vendors really want?

Result: Once employees and vendors or partners feel safe to articulate what they truly want, we should be able to match wants with message and strategy.  That is no simple task. 

How to simplify?

1. In your next meeting, negotiation or business strategy meeting, ask “what do you really need to get what you want?” then shut up and listen.

2. Map your business goals to an impactful personal outcome.

3. Listen to those you partner with to achieve your goals and theirs.  Only by listening – really hearing them – can you come even close to your maximum impact.

What would you differently to simplify? What about the impact you seek to have?

Tell me.




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