The Accelerated Entrepreneur – One Bad Handshake, One Good Handshake

I founded tech business news and business blog service site Handshake 2.0 on my ideal of the handshake.

When I shake someone’s hand, I feel an odd vulnerability and excitement.  I will learn a little about the way another body is in the world.  And more about me will be known than before the handshake. 

A handshake is an acceptable public intimacy.  We’re allowed to touch each other palm-to-palm.

In the business world, a handshake calls off the guard and lets down the drawbridge protecting IP and mindshare.  The odds are good we know a little bit more about how each other runs a business after a handshake.

In the business world, a handshake is also the formal gesture that commits both parties to a deal.

As an accelerated entrepreneur at business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks and founder of a 4-month old start-up company, most of the handshakes I have shared so far have been of the acceptable public intimacy kind.  I treasure those.  An introductory handshake is a choice.  We can always nod to each other when introduced instead of shake. 

My favorite handshake is the eye-to-eye, smile-to-smile, mutually-reaching-out kind.  Sensing a shared, enthusiastic desire to connect is delightful.

I have been candid before that when something crummy happens and I feel hurt by it, I stuff it into myself like a ball of plastic bags into an already-stuffed plastic bag recycling bin.  I hide it before I feel it.

So it was a good handshake last week that unstuffed the bad handshake.

I was a salesclerk at Leggett’s Department Store at Gables Shopping Center in high school and college.  I would work competently and seriously for a sale.  If the shopper didn’t buy, I rehung the dresses and waited for the next shopper.  We were an established enterprise.

As a start-up, I work competently and seriously for a sale.  As an un-established enterprise, the context is acute.  I need these sales sort of now.

“I give you my word,” the individual said, and solemnly reached out to shake my hand. 

I thought that handshake was a deal.  But it turned out not to be.

So, last week, when another individual started shaking my hand, telling me what I could do for the individual, I will admit to you that my first response was doubt.  I trusted a handshake once.  One time, shame on you.  Two times, shame on me.

“Send me an invoice,” the individual said.

So I will be candid now and say that I have tears in my eyes as I write this.  I must keep my tender heart.  To do it well, the business I have chosen to do mandates it.

Still.  The bad handshakes bruise a tender heart.

The good handshakes are balm.

I will provide my new client the very best of my knowledge, expertise, and skills.

With heart.


  1. Among the few childhood conversations I remember, there were 2 or 3 about handshakes. The figure of speech: "It was like a dead fish" was probably what fixed my youthful attention. "Big as a ham" was another. I remember a complaint of my grandfather, perplexing to my young mind just learning from him "the right way" to do things. Firm, but not firm was the rule. The pain of a grip to his hand with arthritis was growing with his age … but it never reduced the reaching out.

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