Tag: life lessons

What I Learned from Joe Boucher

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote,”every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” It’s one of my favorite quotes. This post is the second in a series that highlight some of the awesome people I’ve had the privilege to learn from.

Joe Boucher taught me that sometimes swollowing my pride can be the best decision.

I met Joe when I was a 19 year old sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. He was a judge in the practice version of the Burrill Business Plan Competition. I pitched ExchangeHut to a panel of judges that included Joe and he liked what he heard. He told me to contact him if I needed any help. A few weeks later, we got our first potential buyout offer from a competitior. We were really excited.

My business partner and I went to meet Joe out at his law office in Madison. He walked us through our options and helped us decide that we didn’t want to sell the business just yet. As we grew our company, we hired Joe to do our legal work. But we didn’t just gain an attorney, we gained a mentor. I went to Joe whenever I had business questions and he always had great advice. He pushed us to think through each action we could potentially take and what the consequences of each action would be.

One time, a competitor hacked our site. We were incensed and wanted to strike back via police action and publicly expose the individual immediately. We wanted revenge. Joe calmed us down, helped us work through our options and made us think about what was best for our business, not what would make us feel good in the short term. We devised a plan and executed it calmly. We filed a police report, sent a cease and desist letter and I gave an interview to the press. We got what we wanted and looked good doing it.

Another time, we charged a customer about $160 in fees, which caused her to overdraw her checking account. She was furious, threatening legal action and demanding a full refund plus all of her overdraft fees. We were in the right. She was in the wrong. I wanted to offer her half of her fees back, but after speaking with Joe, he convinced me that giving back the full $160 would not only make the problem go away, but we would likely gain a customer. I met with the customer, returned the $160 and he was right. She was a user for three more years until she graduated.

Joe really drove the lesson home when we were selling our business. We had a signed deal and all sides were happy. After closing, but before we recieved our money, one of the parties in the deal wanted to make changes that would cost us a significant amount of money. They threatened to blow up the deal if we did not comply. What they were doing was blatantly illegal and we had them dead to rights with email and phone messages.

My business partners and I wanted to sue. I met with Joe and shared all of my evidence. He told me that I was right, we did have a great case. If we decided to sue, we would likely be awarded a judgement of 2-4x the initial value of the deal, a significant amount of money. He told me he would be happy to try the case for me.

But he told me that a lawsuit would blow up our deal. And we would incur lots of legal costs. And we likely would be in court for at least 2 years. And then if we won, we would have to collect from the offending party and that it would be difficult because they were in a different state. He asked me if I could still be happy with the final amount of the deal at the reduced rate if I didn’t have the original offer on the table. I said yes.

He convinced me that it would be better to swallow my pride, sell the business, collect the money and be happy about having an exit at age 22. After letting my anger subside, I knew he was right and we accepted the lower amount. From then on, I took steps in all future negotiations to never be in that position again.

For the past 8 years Joe has been my attorney, but moreso my mentor. He’s taught me many, many things and helped me through all manner of business and personal challenges. He even put his law firm at our disposition to create the first version of Entrustet. But the most important thing I learned from Joe Boucher was to take a step back, calmly evaluate my options and sometimes swallow my pride. His important lessons have helped me in every aspect of my life and are a major part of my success and happiness today. Thank you Joe.

What I’ve Learned In 12 Years of Reffing Soccer

I’ve been reffing soccer since I was 12. I grew up playing soccer and wanted some extra spending money as a kid, so it was a natural fit. Over the past 12 years, I’ve learned a ton about myself and human nature in general.  I think some of the lessons I learned growing up as a referee led me be independent and to start my own business.  I even used some of my reffing money to finance my first business.  As I’ve been involved in entrepreneurship, I’ve found that reffing has taught me a ton about business, psychology and life in general.  Here’s a few:

1. The loudest people usually know the least

The people who yell/complain the most, usually know the least.  The people who are mostly silent or pick their spots to speak up usually know their stuff.  Parents, coaches, players.  People complaining about small issues usually don’t know anything and it’s best to ignore them. They just want attention.

2. You have to work hard and earn people’s respect

If you walk around slowly or don’t move outside of the center circle, people will think you’re lazy and will take every opportunity to criticize you if you’re not giving full effort. People are more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you’re working hard, even if you make a mistake.

3. Bullies like to pick on people they don’t think will fight back

I’ve seen coaches and fans brutally abuse 12-14 year old female referees because they know that the kid isn’t going to respond.  Which brings me to my next lesson:

4. Stand up for yourself and others

I threw out a 40 year old coach in my first game when I was 12.  He cussed me out even though I got the foul correct because he believed that the other 9 year old had tried to injure his player.  If you see someone bullying someone else, say something.  Even if you don’t get them to stop, the other person will appreciate it.

5. People live vicariously through others and it’s not a good thing

The worst parents to deal with are those who are living through their kids.  They are horrible to referees, but even worse to their kids.  Thankfully, my Dad never pulled some of the crap I see every season.

6. If you show people respect, they will likely respect you back.  If people won’t respect you back, don’t listen to them and move on.

If you start a relationship by respecting the other person, they’ll likely respect you back.  People deserve your respect from the start.  They don’t have to “earn your respect.”  But if you treat someone with respect and they don’t give it back, don’t listen and move on.  They’re not worth your time.

7. Be aware of politics

Believe it or not, there’s a ton of politics in the referee world, all the way up to the world cup.  Make sure you know the politics of any industry you’re in.  If you don’t like playing the politics game, it’s ok.  Just do what you enjoy.  Try not to bring politics into your own organizations and life, though.

8. Prepare and research for what you are about to do

The best referees that I know research the teams, history, players and coaches they are about to ref.  They know who plays club together, top goal scorers, enforcers.  It makes the job much easier.  Same with just about all aspects of life.

9. Take Responsibility

Show up on time, dress in a uniform and take responsibility for your calls.  You cant hide from players/coaches/fans when you’re the only one with the whistle.  Own up to your mistakes and people will respect you.  If you screw up, tell people you screwed up.  They will respect you for it in the end.

10. Be consistent. Be fair. Don’t call ticky tack, crazy calls that nobody understands.

Just like in life, be consistent and fair.  Don’t try to show people how smart you are.  Be fair and don’t be a dick.

11. Don’t be afraid to do what’s right, even if it’s hard.

It’s hard to disallow a goal in the 89th minute for a handball that only you saw.  Or an offside call that is really close.  You have to do what’s right, no matter what.  Even if it’s painful short term.  You have to live with yourself and you’ll feel better if you do the right thing, even if it’s hard.

Bonus time.  Here’s 10 things I’ve seen on the soccer field in the last 12 years:

1.  My first game.  Coach calls 12 year old me a “fucking idiot.”  I kick him out.  In my third game, I kick another coach out for saying similar things and he sits menacingly on his car trunk watching from the parking lot.

2. High School Game – Red player slide tackles blue player from behind.  I call the foul and give a red card to the red player.  Blue player’s teammate jumps up and jumps on red player’s back, grabs his hair and smashes his face into the ground repeatedly.

3. 14 year old kid tells 19 year old me “I’m going to find out where you live and kill you.”  I give him a red card, laugh and say “what are you going to do, do a bike by?”  Parents tell me I shouldn’t have given him a red card because he has “emotional issues.”

4. Coach is a state cup game attempts to punch 18 year old me in the face after I throw him out for swearing at me repeatedly.  He says “If you’re man enough to throw me out, you’re going to have to be man enough to make me” and has to be restrained by field marshals.

5. Parent is unhappy that his son has been red carded for saying that 21 year old me is “a fucking terrible idiot.”  Parent goes Bobby Knight and throws a chair onto the field, in my direction.  He’s ejected too.

6. U10 game.  Goal keeper makes a great save with his stomach and gets the wind knocked out of him.  Father gets really mad and announces to the parents sideline that he’s going to make “his little pussy” get back in the game.  I tossed him and he got a 3 game suspension.

7. Parent of 16 year old female select player screams at her daughter the entire game.  His kid is the best player on the team, but he thinks she can do better.  It gets so bad that the girl breaks down crying and screams at him that she wants to quit.  She had scored 2 goals and her team was winning.

8. Parents follow me to my car and attempt to not allow me to leave.  I’m 17 and it’s a u15 game.  They were mad that I called the game because of lightning while their team was losing.

9. U13 game.  Manager comes over to me to pay me before the game.  He looks me in the eye and says really slowly “This is a really important game, make sure you call it fair” as he’s handing me my pay envelope.  I didn’t think anything of it.  After the game, there’s an extra $40 in the envelope.  Bribing the ref in a u13 game?  Seriously?

10. Very clean high school girls game.  60 minutes in, a red player comes in screaming and makes a horrible slide tackle on a blue player.  I give her a red card and ask one of the other girls what that was all about.  They tell me that blue player had stolen red player’s boyfriend earlier that summer.

I probably have another 50 stories I could share, but I’ll leave those for another post.

On a serious note, 90% of referees quit in their first year.  The pay is great, but most people can’t take the abuse from parents and coaches.  There’s no other job where adults think it’s ok to scream and swear at 12-18 year olds and drive them to tears.  I would love to go to some accountant, attorney, construction worker, sales exec’s office and scream at him whenever I think he’s made a mistake, just so they can see what it’s like.  I’ve actually told that to parents as I’ve ejected them.  It doesn’t usually make an impression.