Always get to know the character of those whose approval you wish to earn, and the nature of their guiding principles. Look into the sources of their opinions and their motives and then you will not blame any of their involuntary offenses or feel the want of their approbation.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor1
Rarely am I asked, “What are the most painful lessons you've learned over the course of your career?” If you want to engage in a deep conversation with a business leader, throw this zinger question at them. For me, one of my greatest lessons had to do with the subject we're now going to address: aligning goals with investors.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, we were approached by a sophisticated local real estate developer and investor who was acquiring 400 acres of California coastland just a short walk away from the beach and one hour south of San Francisco. This land, which is surrounded by some of the most pristine beaches and wilderness on the Pacific Coast, was partially entitled by the county and the California Coastal Commission to be a motor lodge and campground. The original developers had run out of money and hit a wall in their entitlements process. Therefore, my associate, who is a shrewd real estate investor, was able to acquire this remarkable site relatively inexpensively.
Personally, I was very excited by this out of the box project ...