With the litany of business books on the shelves these days, you might ask yourself, “Why pick up this one?”. As the authors, we take that question seriously as we are both avid readers, and often take a pragmatic approach to life and business. Throughout the years, both Hunter and I have come across many individuals wanting to get into business, struggling with their existing business, lacking drive or motivation, and a whole host of other problems that are easily evident by a third-party observer. It’s often said that how you conduct business is a reflection of yourself, and if your business isn’t where you want it to be, the one factor that you can control is you.
There are 10 rules in this book that are designed to guide and provide insight for an individual throughout their life and business challenges. Rather than focusing on narrow technical solutions for particular industries, our rules are more universally applicable and industry agnostic. In times of uncertainty, we hope this book serves as a bedside guide towards a positive resolution to the challenges you may face.
It’s often been said that one should consider carefully where they take advice from. As the authors of this book we have both the outward trappings of success and the inner desire to continue to push forward to realize our vision.
From private jet travel, exotic cars and walking the red carpet at the Emmys, to dining with billionaires, to meeting with Prime Ministers and Middle Eastern royalty, from Wall Street to the farm several miles from Main Street, to the hills and churches of remote Armenia to the Hollywood Hills and mega mansions, from A-list celebrities to the homeless men and women seeking shelter, from mom and pop shops throughout Boston to international business on 5 conti- nents, from local political campaigns to the national level at D.C., from single family rentals to large-scale urban real estate development, we have had our share of the American Dream.
I first met Hunter during our college days via a Hack- athon that he partnered with a company to host. Since then we’ve gone on to have several technology ventures together as well as business ventures in other industries. Everyone has their ups and downs in life. That being said, over the years a person can choose to become wiser with each new problem they face in their life. This book is our distillation of core business concepts, told through Hunter’s voice in a narrative format, that we hope will enable the reader to have the cross-industry business success that we have enjoyed over the years.
We thank you for taking the time to read our book, and without further ado, let’s dive right in!
—Joseph Del Prete
It took our country the brief period between two Olympics to reform global democracy, break records in production, fix an economy, and spread hope and peace. On the other hand, it took Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson Airport 25 years to add a fifth runway.
Be in the pilot’s seat, and just launch
From December 7, 1941, until the end of 1945, our country was an active participant in World War II. Three years and eight months—about the length of one’s high school career, a little less than a presidential term, and just three annual Christmas parties. In that short amount of time, the United States had launched the B17, B42, BTD, P-51 Mustang, and about 54 other bomber aircrafts to protect our people, our neighbors, and our values. In 1939, our country had produced fewer than 3,000 planes for the military and by the end of World War II, we had produced more than 300,000 aircraft. During that span of time, our country developed the Manhattan Project, created a mil- lion-man army, ended the Depression, and most important- ly, beat Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan, and Fascist Italy. It took our country the break period between two Olympics to reform global democracy, break records in production, fix an economy, and spread hope and peace. On the other hand, it took the Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson Airport 25 years to add a fifth runway.
The importance of logistics ties back into having an actual plan. At many points throughout our lives and especially in the political and business spheres, the “survival of the fittest” mindset has created an environment based on independence and pushing others down have your agenda rise to the top. Recognizing that you’re in this situation, the best step for your company and vision is to filter out the unnecessary obstacles to ensure focus, and just launch. Of course, there are risks; but having trust in yourself, your flight crew, and your plane, makes liftoff a whole lot smoother. One of the biggest fears that prevents dreamers from becoming achievers is the idea of failure and crashing. This applies to business deals and proposals as well as crafting a vision or campaign. Fearlessness and being able to just launch by believing in yourself pushes you ahead of those who are still sitting and wondering what if?
The success and efficiency of flight crews weighs heavily on the structure of the team. Flight hierarchy ties to how a company should be run and trusted. Flight crews pass in and out of aisles as they connect with customers, while you, the pilot, are responsible for assuring the safety of everyone on board. Then, after takeoff, consistently focusing on the sky ahead. Your trip would not be successful if, as a pilot, you
Having trust in yourself, your flight crew, and your plane, makes liftoff a whole lot smoother.
Don’t trust your flight crew and as a consequence micro-man- age them and get distracted from your responsibility.
Throughout my life my ability to trust others has been heavily tested—especially in college. While many people, myself included, remind you that being independent is important, it is absolutely vital to also trust that you’ve picked a good team to surround you. Once you’ve picked your flight crew, your company is now built on a glass stage of trust. As former President of TerraSource, an agricultural company, one of the most profound things I’ve learned is to trust myself and my team to do what they need to do, without any constant reminders or opinions from me. Because of this trust, our companies meet weekly either in person and/or virtually to touch base on everyone’s projects and activities. Rather than critiquing one’s ability to do a project, all we ask for are deadlines to set expectations of when our companies can see results. This process
You can’t memorize a textbook on how to run a good business and become that; you need to do things you normally wouldn’t do and just launch.
Has shown great efficiency and continues to strengthen the relationship of management with everyone else in the company.
Another character shaping note I’ve learned as a pilot is the constant commentary and criticisms you hear about what you’re doing. I went from being a small-town boy to an international businessman in half a decade, and sure enough, there were people always warning me about the risks along the way. If you want to see your dream as a reality, if you want your signature to be an autograph, you’re going to come across people who live too safe a life to go the extra mile. Your company will not grow if you don’t trust yourself and in your ability that you can be on the next cover of Forbes. The reality is that you can never be prepared enough for life. There will always be one more class you can take, one more book you can read, one more seminar you can go to, one more midterm to test your memory on what’s important or essential to know about your craft or discipline or endeavor. That’s why not all business-related professors aren’t billionaires. You can’t memorize a textbook on how to run a good business and then create one; you need to do things you normally wouldn’t do and just launch.
My late grandfather was a pilot and a Colonel in the United States Airforce. Many people look to their grandparents as story books, a comfort zone, or as a refuge for those times when our parents got upset with us. Grandparents are where you can find out about who your parents really were when growing up. For me, my grandfather was my absolute role model, the Renaissance man I aspired to be. He was a person I would study like a book. His words would stick with me and make me a better pilot of my life.
One day, the night before making a life-changing deci- sion, I approached one my grandfathers (an army helicopter pilot) for his worldly wisdom regarding my frustration, and his words, which I’ll never forget, were, “Hunter, sometimes you have to say the old famous pilot’s prayer: God, give me the eyes of an eagle, the wisdom of an owl, the quickness of a hummingbird, the radar of a cave bat, the heart of a bull, and the balls of an army helicopter pilot. Because remember, Hunter, in life, whether as an individual, business, or political figure, you are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or going into a storm. Life is a storm, but you can’t take your eyes off the goal.”
I also want to share my daily mantra with you (because it doesn’t matter if you’re the best damn pilot in the world): There is an infinite sky around you, and you’re eventually going to be unprepared for something. As a businessman conflicts are inevitable, but when you understand your
There is an infinite sky around you, and you’re eventually going to
be unprepared for something.
Position, stay focused on the destination, and exercise self-control, it makes navigating the storms of conflict that much easier. There won’t always be someone from air traffic control calling you to warn you about the unexpected storm ahead, and even if there is, they aren’t the one in the pilot’s seat. Someone can call you and tell you that your company’s stock crashed, or that an investor pulled out, or even your product is faulty and has resulted in a lawsuit. No matter the situation or circumstance, this much is true: The second you let go of the yoke, you will lose control.
My entire family was living in Florida when I was growing up, and I eventually moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I attended Harvard University. This proved to be a huge milestone for me in that it put me on the road toward becoming self-reliant. I learned what I wanted to do with my life, and what my purpose was. Being part of such a prestigious school that’s known for its rigor was an awe-inspiring experience, yet my time spent out of the classroom really brought me to where I am today. While my friends aligned their study schedules to fit their bar-hopping and partying lifestyles, I found it all to be unappealing—and a waste of time and money—to get caught in this cycle of living by my peers. I was interested in the cycle of learning and studying, but not getting drunk enough to barely make it to the next lecture. I began spending my nights at hotel bars and lounges, reading newspapers, and checking my phone to be informed on the ever-updating global financial markets. Along the way, I would meet like-minded businessmen and women from different parts of the planet, most of whom would pass on their personal lessons and struggles to me with every toast we had. My associations with whiskey and the occasional dirty martini became my opportunity to learn more about the business world and to create a networking experience that served me better than the times spent shotgunning beers with fraternity brothers who, to some extent, had their lives already planned out for them with their father’s trust fund.
As my grandfather had advised me, being the archetype of a helicopter pilot prepared me to be a robust leader: having the eyes of a hawk to oversee any faults in my business plans, wisdom to know the next step, quickness to actually put my plan into motion, radar to prevent trouble, heart to prioritize my company’s well-being over nearly anything else in my life, and the balls to keep flying in the storm. There is no perfect formula for a successful business, especially at my age, and staying well rounded and motivated encouraged me to fuel my diverse streamline of companies and projects I oversee today.