The Business Leader as Ultramarathoner
Have you ever heard of an ultramarathon? A standard marathon isjust over 26 miles. An ultramarathon is usually on the order of50 or 100 miles, though there are some that span one thousand! Imagine the endurance required to run such a race.
Running a business requires the kind of devotion and stamina thatultramarathoners can only dream about. Like the 100-mile runner,the successful business leader must maintain focus, keeping aneye on the path...on the mileposts that mark progress...and onthe long-range goal.
Unlike an ultramarathoner, your long-distance business run endsonly when you leave the business by choice or when it dies anunnatural death. For in business the real success lies increating something you can live with for the long haul, acrucible into which you can mix your creative vision and talentsto build something unique and useful.
Keeping Stakeholders Focused
It's critical to your success to help your stakeholders stayfocused, too. A good business delivers value to employees,customers, investors, and the community in roughly equal measure.Lose focus in any of those areas and you can find yourself headedfor a business train wreck.
What happens when a business and its stakeholders lose focus? Irecently observed a group of people at one company meeting todiscuss the project manager's dissatisfaction with pink bubblewrap.
Eight people spent one hour in a meeting to talk about why bubblewrap had to be pink. Was that meeting necessary? Of course not.The focusing question to ask is: Does this meeting deliver realvalue to business stakeholders? Is it lined up with the business'principles and what it does consistently well?
Best intentions aside, such meetings are indicative of deeperproblems that have gone ignored for a long time.
How Many Bubble Wrap Meetings Can You Afford?
In larger companies the symptoms of a loss of focus can go on foryears. The systemic problems that occur in such situationsdevelop gradually. Unless you are paying attention, you hardlynotice them until they reach an almost ridiculous peak.
In smaller businesses, though, the results of defocusing can becatastrophic. They come upon you quickly like potholes in theroad because you are moving at high speed. Before you know ityou're sitting at the roadside, wondering what happened.
If you are going to avoid such problems, you must take actionahead of time. You must begin before the beginning.
Paying Attention Before the Beginning
During a business' startup phase, well before launch, foundersand leaders must take the time to get conscious about what theyare doing and why they are doing it. Smart leaders create answersto questions like:
The time you make to answer such questions is repaid athousandfold as your business grows. Be fanatical aboutindoctrinating your staff, employees, investors, customers, andthe community about your principles and what you do consistentlywell. Do so in terms they can relate to:Employees: Focus on delivering the value of what you do consistently well to those you serve. Make sure they KNOW who you serve and teach them how to be customer advocates. Reward such advocacy. Make sure they understand the value your business delivers to each stakeholder.
Customers: Create a communication strategy that connects intimately with those you serve. SHOW the value of your focus -- don't tell, because talk is cheap. Build relationships that feed improvements to existing products and services, and get your customers involved in creating new ones.
Investors: Keep them informed about your progress. Speak the truth clearly. Hide nothing. Act ethically. Plan for the long term (even if you personally want to take an early exit).
Community: Be involved as a good community member. Pick a cause that's congruent with what you do and support it with passion. Show the community you'll be there for the long term.
Your Courage and Devotion Set the Tone
Above all, have the courage and devotion to keep yourselffocused. There is no stronger example than that of your own life.Do your best to be the sort of person you want others in yourcompany to be. For they will look to you as the model foracceptable behavior, values, and creative passion.
It's your race. Run it well!
Michael Knowles, co-author of The Entrepreneur's Concept Assessment Toolbook (http://www.booklocker.com/books/1988.html) helps businesses take what they do best and focus it on success. A Principal in One Straight Line LLC, Michael has over 25 years of experience helping companies create communication strategies help them engage customers, employees, investors, outsourcing partners, and the community. Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How A Woman Became A Successful Bill Collector In A Mans Industry And How You Can Too!
I have worked in the credit industry for over 17 years now. When I first started out, I only knew a very few women in the industry. That number has grown over the years, but not by much. Being a bill collector has always been categorized as a "man's industry".
Franchises - Success and You
Many people believe owning a franchise will make them rich, financially secure, and provide the life of their dreams. True, franchises have an extremely high success rate, and a very high satisfaction rate among their owners. But is that success guaranteed when you purchase a franchise? NO!
Why Most CEOs & Entrepreneurs Fail?
Times are tough. The economy is in a constant state ofupheaval. Is your company doing better than most? Are youplacing greater emphasis on pure performance?
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Isn't enthusiasm a good thing? Aren't we urged to be enthusiasticabout what we do? To be committed?
Definition of Entrepreneur
How Good Is Your Big Idea
Q: I want to start my own business. I have tons of business ideas that all sound great to me, but my husband is not so sure. He says that we need to figure out a way to test my ideas to pick the one that has the best chance of succeeding. I'm ready to just pick one and go for it. What is the best way to determine if a business idea really is as good as it sounds?-- Hannah C.
Cut to the Quick - What is an Entrepreneur? The Inside Story
Enjoying the title of entrepreneur is a hollow feeling.
The Term Sheet?s Role in Raising Venture Capital
Entrepreneurs and companies who are seeking venture capital often negotiate with one or more venture capital firms on a number of important issues. These issues include the amount of capital to be raised, the investment terms, etc. The document which summarizes these terms is known as a "term sheet."
Starting Your Business By The Book
I've gotten several questions recently about the legalities of starting a business. So, this week I thought I would address a few of the more common legal issues most new businesses face. But first, let's get the mandatory legal disclaimer out of the way: the advice dispensed by this columnist is probably no better or worse than the advice dispensed by other columnists. Do not take the following advice as gospel or bet the future of your business on any advice given herein by said columnist.
Expand Your Resourcefullness!
The success and failure for the entrepreneur is largely dictated by the ability to gain access to resources, both personal as well as those of others.
From Bank Clerk to Entreprenuer
What seems like a century ago, I left school and joined a well-known High Street Bank. In those days working as a bank clerk was a well-established route for many school leavers and perceived to be a proper job with prospects. It wasn't long before I became disillusioned with the world of banking and sought a change of job. In complete contrast to my previous job, I became a clerk in the local hospital dealing with the injured and infirm, but it was a role that I found strangely interesting and rewarding. In today's parlance, it is known as job satisfaction.
16 Vital Traits Shared by All Successful Entrepreneurs
The first step in deciding whether to start a business is to ask yourself this important question: "Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?" A variety of experts have documented research that indicates that successful small business entrepreneurs, whether male or female, have some common characteristics. How do you measure up? It will be up to you -- not someone else telling you - to develop projects, organize your time and follow through on details.
Why Every Student Should Start a Business
With the economic downturn, students in all the major business schools have been dropping out of their entrepreneurship classes and transferring back to classes where they think they have a secure future. Students and professionals who were once planning to start businesses now have decided to go back to their cushy jobs. Everything is going back to normal. Or at least that is how it looks. Below are nine reasons why any student should start a business:You gain experience. Owning and running your own business is an incredible way to gain experience and credentials regardless of whether you decide to stay in business once you graduate. Jaime Gonzalez of Oklahoma State University received the highest job offer in his entire graduating class. Now, there are two kickers: First, he was the founder of an IT consulting company, and second, he had a 2.4 GPA. Hmmm...I wonder if starting a business helps in getting a better job when you graduate? You have nothing to lose. I think it's safe to say that most students dip into their parents' checkbook when it comes time to pay the bills. In general, students aren't paying child support, rent, utilities and many other expenses. The worst thing that could happen if your business fails is that you get a job, have an incredible credential on your resume, and have experience that will increase your chances of success in the future. The best thing that can happen is that you'll become the next Microsoft. I don't know about you, but I think that is better than choosing between no job and jobs that you're in just for the money. Two-thirds of millionaires are entrepreneurs, according to Thomas Stanley and William Dank, authors of The Millionaire Mind. If it's the money you want, then consider entrepreneurship. You receive not only a salary, but also a lot of money if you're lucky enough to sell your company or take it public. Michael Furdyk, a successful young entrepreneur, was able to sell his business, MyDesktop.com, for $1 million when he was 16 years old! You develop networking skills. You've likely heard that your network increases your net worth. Consider the fact that by running a business and constantly being in a business community, you will develop excellent contacts. If you choose to get a job after you graduate, you will have a great pool of people who will be more than happy to hire you or send your resume to somebody who wants to. You increase your value. Put simply, starting a business in college increases the value of "the brand called you" and gives you more options. For example, an entrepreneur with a large brand value can publish a book, star in a documentary movie (i.e., Startup.com), or go straight to the top of another company. I recently met one of the founders of Diversity Planet, a job site for minorities. He spent a year working very hard on the company and has since left to take a reporting job with Dateline NBC at the ripe age of 20! People don't often don't get an opportunity like that until they are much older. Operating a profitable business in the long term is less risky than being an employee in the long term. For example, just look at the recent economic downturn. Tens of thousands of people have been laid off. I can guarantee the owners of profitable businesses are still with the business. They will be the last people to go down with a ship. Business owners can have multiple streams of incomes from different customers. If you're an employee, you only have one stream of income and therefore are bearing more risk. You will learn more about yourself and what they don't teach or prepare you for in school. Furthermore, entrepreneurship is the combination of all the disciplines of business. It includes knowledge of marketing, accounting, management and operations. Already having knowledge of these topics before you take classes on them allows you to see more clearly how everything applies. Also, you will be able to learn early-on what subjects you like so you can make better decisions on what to major in and what industries to target. It is yours. You make the rules, create your own hours, work from wherever you want and choose who you want to work with. You can also pick what interests you the most in the world and then start a business that is related to that topic in some way. If you like art, you can start a design business. If you like marketing, you can create or choose a product and then market it. If you like writing, you can write a book and do your own public relations and marketing. If you like the Internet, you can start a Web development business. You'll grow. I personally have grown a lot from owning a business. I used to be terrified to speak in front of others. Now I look forward to it. Before owning a business, I had probably read a total of five books outside of school, and I only read them because my mom made me. Since starting my business, I've probably read more than 100 books. The business has also allowed me to learn more about myself. I know that I will be an entrepreneur forever in some way, shape or form!
Traits of The Successful Entrepreneur
Want to know why certain people succeed and others don't. Well successful people have certain traits? Do you have them?
How To Start a New Business
While it is tempting to just leap into a new business because of it's exciting possibilities, a few key planning points will vastly increase your chances of success. These steps aren't difficult, but they're easy to skip. Many businesses ultimately depend on a slim profit margin, so planning can really help the process. Too many restaurant patrons, for instance, assume that running a restaurant seems fun because of the many restaurants they have visited, but restaurants have an especially high failure rate.
The Visionary Entrepreneur
Any success you have in life must begin with a vision. A vision is the ability to see what others cannot see. It is being able to have a picture in your mind of exactly the result you intend to produce. The visionary entrepreneur is able to see exactly what his or her business is going to look like in every detail when it is finished.
What Part of Handwriting on the Wall Dont You Understand - They Dont Hire People Over 50
In a recent talk to the Detroit Economic Club, President Bush told of a powerful statement made to John Bailey by his wife, "Just what part of the writing on the wall don't your understand - companies don't want people over 50!" The White House staff had become aware of an amazing story of entrepreneurial success stemming from John's wife's words.
Judging Entrepreneurial Ideas
Most entrepreneurs constantly come up with new ideas. Whether they are working on another project, driving, or lying in bed, their minds are constantly churning out new products, services and ways of doing things. For these entrepreneurs, the startup challenge shifts from coming up with ideas to choosing which idea to execute.
An Entrepreneur and a Life To Be Remembered
I was reminded of my own mortality today. I guess you can say I had a near death experience, though the death I experienced was not my own.
The Cockroach Test
Let me ask you a question? Imagine I would offer you $10 for eating 10 living cockroaches. Would you do it? Now listen, I raise the ante and offer you $100. How does that feel? If you hear me saying "you get $1000 bucks" does that change something? Here is the ultimate offer 1 million dollars for eating 10 living cockroaches right now. What is your feeling now?
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