Jul 112017
 
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Being An Entrepreneur Is The Only Way To Control Your Destiny

One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is that you control your own destiny.

Well, sort of.

In reality, regardless of what you do to make a living, there will be factors beyond your control. Those factors may, of course, have an impact on your destiny.

When compared with other ways to make a living, though, it’s hard to find options that give you as much control as being an entrepreneur.

If, for example, you work for someone else, your destiny is largely in that person’s or that organization’s hands. The reality is that tomorrow, or even a minute from now, your employer could notify you that your services are no longer needed.

Your employer may tell you this because you’re not doing a good job, over which you do have a large degree of control, of course.

However, they may also tell you that your services are no longer needed due to all sorts of other factors.

For example, your job may be “offshored” or outsourced to some other place in the world. Or, due to no fault of your own, and perhaps even due to no fault of your employer, the company’s sales may be declining and the company may no longer be able to afford to have you on the payroll.

So, how is being an entrepreneur different in terms of controlling your own destiny?

Well, in some ways it’s very different, and in other ways, it’s similar to working for someone else.

Let’s look at the differences and similarities.

When you are an entrepreneur (i.e. self-employed, as a simplified definition in this article — I realize there are varying views on the definition of “entrepreneur”), you’ll see the following “control” differences and similarities, compared to working for someone else:

  • You control your schedule. Your employer doesn’t control your schedule, at least, as you do not have an employer other than yourself. That said, you do have all sorts of constituencies that will have an impact on your schedule, including customers, investors, partners, employees, service providers, etc. So, in a nutshell, you’ve traded your employer for a series of other “bosses”.
  • You control how much you make. In reality, how well your company does controls how much you make. So, you can’t just say I want to be paid a million dollars per year and the money shows up on your doorstep. You have to be strategic and you have to be willing to work hard, but the good news is that if you work hard enough for a million dollars to come in, you’ll likely be keeping a lot more of it (with controlled expenses) than you would have if you were on someone else’s payroll.
  • You control how hard you work. Well, to be clear, you largely control how hard you work if you’re working for someone else, too. Once you become accustomed to being an entrepreneur, though, you realize that you don’t mind putting in long hours when it’s for your bottom line and not for someone else’s.
  • You control your stress level. Again, regardless of whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee, you are in charge of controlling your stress level. As an entrepreneur, you may have a bit more flexibility in structuring your schedule and your activities, so that you’re better able to manage your stress level. However, in many cases, since you’re the “chief cook and bottle washer” (i.e. the buck stops with your for everything), often your stress level will actually go up relative to what it was as an employee.  As with hard work, though, you’ll likely not mind more stress so much when it’s for your business, rather than for your employer’s business.
  • You control whom you work with. This may be one of the biggest perks of being an entrepreneur, especially when you reach a level of success that gives you some flexibility. You have the last say on who works at your company, the customers you do business with, the service providers you use, etc. This is very liberating! It gives you the opportunity to only work with and help people that you like. This isn’t true for all businesses, of course – if you have a retail business dealing with the public, for example, you may not like every customer that walks through the door. If you own a service business, on the other hand, you typically can “fire” (or never “hire”) clients who you don’t want to help, for most any reason.
  • You control what happens when you retire. This assumes, of course, that you’ve built a business that can survive without your presence. If you haven’t, then the business will close when you decide you’re done. If you have, then you’ll be able to retire knowing that your business will continue to serve others, in the hands of the subsequent owners. It’s satisfying to know that you’ve built a business that not only provided for you and your family, but also that will continue to serve customers into the future, and may even continue to support your family, depending who the subsequent owners are and how the deal is structured when you sell your business.
  • You control whether you get fired. Bringing the story back to the beginning of this article, where we talked about the fact that your employer can fire you at any time, being an entrepreneur is no panacea in this regard. Subject to the terms of your agreement, clients can also “fire” you at any time. That said, for your sake, I hope that you will not have just one client or just one customer! If you build a diversified set of customer and clients, then if just one fires you, your business is not done. The same cannot be said for the situation where your (one) employer fires you – in that case, your “business” is done and you must find another job.

This list could go on, but you get the idea: As an entrepreneur, you have more control over your destiny.

That does not mean that things get easier than when you’re an employee, but it does mean that you are in charge – and you get all the good and bad things that come with being the head honcho. The sky is the limit, but the downside is yours as well. If that works for you, then being an entrepreneur is absolutely the way to go!

 

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

 

 

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Jul 092017
 
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How To Be Successful As A Defiant Entrepreneur

Maybe I should have titled this: How to be successful if you’re not a defiant entrepreneur!

Really. In my book and my experience, if you’re not defiant as an entrepreneur, your odds of being successful get much worse.

Think about it. What does it mean to be defiant? Here’s the dictionary definition:

Full of or showing a disposition to challenge, resist, or fight:  full of or showing defiance: boldimpudent 

From where I sit, you could almost substitute the word defiant for entrepreneur, and the definition would be the same! In fact, I guess the term defiant entrepreneur is kind of redundant.

Take a moment and run through a list in your mind of all the successful entrepreneurs that you know. How many of them are not “defiant”? I did this exercise a moment ago and for me, the answer was: “None”. Every single one of them is defiant. In fact, they’re some of the most defiant people I know!

Why is defiance important to being successful as an entrepreneur?

Well, here are some of the things you need to defy as an entrepreneur:

  • the odds of failure
  • authority
  • the status quo
  • naysayers
  • entrenched competition
  • “common wisdom”
  • inertia
  • your comfort zone
  • stereotypes
  • resistance to change
  • laziness
  • ignorance
  • jealousy

This list could go on and on!

As an entrepreneur, you are essentially in the business of being defiant!

Why is it important to your success in business that you are (or become) and you remain a defiant entrepreneur?

The answer is simple: the forces colluding against your success as an entrepreneur are numerous, as evidenced by the (incomplete) list above. If you give in and become anything less than defiant, your business is likely destined to fail.

In other words, the minute you acquiesce and give in to the forces conspiring against your success as an entrepreneur, you’re done. You might as well clean out your locker, go home, and find something else to do.

So, the next time you’re accused of being too intense, or of being too edgy – in other words, of being defiant – thank whomever it is who says it to you.

Don’t waste a lot of time explaining it to them, as you have defiant entrepreneur things to do, but let them know that as an entrepreneur, as someone who is trying to change your life and the world for the better, it is your job to be defiant!

You don’t need to apologize for it. You are simply doing your job to the best of your ability. It may be difficult for non-entrepreneurs to understand, but that is not your problem.

On a side note, I recently wrote an article about being successful as an introverted entrepreneur. I want to point out that I don’t think to be introverted and being defiant are mutually exclusive.

Some of the most defiant entrepreneurs I know are introverts – they just go about expressing their defiance differently than the extroverts in the crowd!

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.

 

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

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Jul 072017
 
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How Can An Introverted Entrepreneur Be Successful?

Are you an introverted entrepreneur trying to figure out how to be successful?

Let me start with the good news. It’s definitely possible for an introvert to be successful as an entrepreneur.

In fact, according to a recent Entrepreneur.com article, the following mega-successful entrepreneurs are introverts:

  • Larry Page
  • Bill Gates
  • Warren Buffet
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Elon Musk

This is a list of successful introverted entrepreneurs I would imagine that you would not mind being part of! Each one of these “introverts” is a billionaire, most of them several times over. We’re talking about some of the richest people in the world on this list. So, that is quite encouraging.

Ok, we started with the good news. Now, let’s talk about some of the not-so-good news, for you, the aspiring introverted entrepreneur.

First, let’s acknowledge that in order to be successful as an entrepreneur, you will typically have to interact with a wide variety of people. These interactions will usually take place daily if not many times per day. So, many times when you’d like to be on your own, enjoying some time to yourself, you will need to get out of your comfort zone and play the role of an extrovert. In entrepreneurship, perhaps even more than in most other endeavors, great things typically are accomplished by teams, rather than by entrepreneurs working alone.

Next, we should consider that the “extrovert world” is full of small talk, with which you probably are not particularly comfortable. You will need to work on striking a balance between getting right to the point and not seeming standoffish and/or aloof. Is this starting to sound familiar? You will have to work on being willing to listen to some personal or sports stories that aren’t relevant to the task at hand, as sharing such information is a mechanism for bonding with your colleagues. Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy some of these interactions.

Now, we’ll talk about the fact that he or she who talks the most or the loudest often has a disproportionate impact on the outcome of decision-making conversations. It is here that you will need to develop your “assertiveness muscles” and come to terms with the fact that if you’re going to be a successful introverted entrepreneur, you will need to be willing to argue forcefully for your ideas. Don’t worry, with time, it’s likely you will become more and more comfortable with this reality.

At this point, we should talk about what may be one of the hardest leaps for you as an introvert, which is selling. As an entrepreneur, it’s often the case that you are selling from the time you wake up, until the time you go to sleep. You sell your ideas to your partners, your product development ideas to your engineers, your products and services to your customers, and the list goes on. Selling when you don’t see yourself as a salesperson is one of the hardest things for any entrepreneur, but perhaps even more difficult for the introverted entrepreneur. Take a look here for some ideas on how to sell better if you’re not a salesperson.

Finally, for now, let’s talk about how physically and emotionally draining it can be as an introverted entrepreneur to face the challenges mentioned above, as well as the many others you will encounter each day. The fact is, you will likely end each day completely drained! It is, therefore, extremely important that you find activities and hobbies that allow you to regenerate. These activities can include meditation, yoga, running, or hiking, among others. They could even include just reading a book or listening to music, but try to mix some physical activity in as well. If at all possible, try to do at least one such activity each day, so you can face the next day as an entrepreneur completely charged and ready to go.

How do you approach being an introverted entrepreneur?

I look forward to your thoughts, ideas, and questions.

 

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

 

 

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Jan 092013
 
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entrepreneur manifesto

Entrepreneur Manifesto – Another Look

When I first thought about putting together an entrepreneur manifesto a couple of years ago, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible.  Here, I will stick with the same 10 key points, but I’d like to hang a little “meat” on the manifesto, based on a couple more years of learning and reflection on what is important for success as an entrepreneur.   Here are the ten key “commitments” of the entrepreneur:

1.   I will be Persistent.  I know that nothing great is ever achieved without persistence.  I also know that the road to success is littered with those who gave up, while I continued to fight.

2.   I will set Goals I know that setting and monitoring progress toward goals increases my probability of success.  I also know that even if I don’t achieve every goal exactly as planned, by having goals I give myself targets toward which I can strive.

3.   I will have a Plan.  I know that although plans can change, having one is important.  I understand that it is very likely that I will have to course-correct frequently as I execute my plan, but rather than see such course corrections as failures, I will see them as opportunities to continue on the path to success.

4.   I will be a Believer.  I know that being an optimist and expecting the best works in my favor.  I will focus on the reasons to believe, rather than be swayed by all the naysayers who don’t want to see me succeed while they stand still.

5.   I will be a Realist.  I know that being realistic and making incremental improvements is the way to go.  I understand that being a believer and being realistic are not mutually exclusive; rather they are two sides of the same coin.

6.   I will always be Learning.  I know that everything changes and ongoing, constant learning is the only way to succeed.  I subscribe to the theory that if I stand still in business, I’m actually losing ground.

7.   I will stay Focused.  I know that if I don’t stay focused, I am not likely to achieve my goals.  I will find my “why” and I will use it to help me to avoid succumbing to shiny object syndrome.

8.   I will be BoldI know that being timid won’t get me far as an entrepreneur.  I will, when appropriate, do what it takes to make my business and my offering stand out from the crowd.

9.   I will have a sense of Urgency.  I know that hardly anything is ever attempted or accomplished without it.  I will find ways to access my sense of urgency whenever I need it, in order to continue to progress toward accomplishment of my goals.

10. I will be Passionate.  I know that my passion for what I do is what sets me apart from all the noise in the market.  I will use my “why” and my commitment to success as strong sources of passion and energy as I grow my entrepreneurial ventures.

Let me know what else you think should be included in the entrepreneur manifesto!

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

Don’t miss an issue of Company Founder! Subscribe today.  It’s free.  It’s private.  It’s practical information for entrepreneurs and leaders interested in taking it to the next level.

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Dec 172012
 
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entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship Never Promised You A Rose Garden

It always surprises me when people tell me that entrepreneurship is tougher than they thought it would be!

In some ways I guess it’s not too surprising.  In the media, we hear a lot about extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson.  We hear how they’ve made billions of dollars and we get a glimpse into the lives of luxury they’ve earned through their entrepreneurial toils.

What we don’t see as much in the media are the stories about the countless times such entrepreneurs have been knocked down and gotten back up.  Thus, the image we see in the media glorifies entrepreneurship and skews our perspective on what it takes to become successful as an entrepreneur.  That media image tends to underemphasize the importance of persistence in the stories of every successful entrepreneur.

So if entrepreneurship is not a “rose garden” but rather a constant and never ending challenge, why do we do it?  Answer this question honestly in your own case.  If you’re an entrepreneur, why have you signed up for a lifestyle that gets glorified, when in fact, for most entrepreneurs, it presents challenges beyond what they likely ever would have seen in a 9-5 job?

In my case, I’ve signed up to be an entrepreneur for a variety of reasons.  Here are a few that come immediately to mind:

1.)     I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a young kid.  I’ve never seen myself as anything else.

2.)     I feel more comfortable as an entrepreneur than I do as an employee.

3.)     I’ve never bought into the notion of “job security”.  There may have been a time when you could expect to reach “gold watch” (upon retirement) years at one company, but those days are long gone.

4.)     I like the idea that my success or failure is driven in great part by the thought and effort I put into my endeavors.  Notice I didn’t say that it’s driven exclusively by my efforts, as I’m aware that in order to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need the help of a lot of people.

5.)     I like to work hard (and smart) and it gives me more satisfaction to know that the extraordinary effort I invest in my ventures will benefit me directly, rather than indirectly.

6.)     I’ve always felt like entrepreneurs are “my people”.  I admire and respect those who are willing to come up with an idea, launch it, and drive it toward success, even if the journey is not direct and there’s always some course correction necessary along the way.  I’ve always wanted to be one of those people.

7.)     I believe that without entrepreneurship our world would be a much less interesting place.  Think of one product or service you love and “can’t live without”.  A company that was started by an entrepreneur or a team of entrepreneurs provides that product or service.

8.)     I’ve always believed in free market economics.  There is no more effective force than competition to bring the highest and best products and services to the market, at a price the market is willing to pay.  The entrepreneur has to navigate that complex landscape.  That’s a great challenge and one that I enjoy.

9.)     As an entrepreneur, especially as one who has achieved some success, you have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to society and have a positive impact on a large number of people.

10.)   Life as an entrepreneur is hardly ever boring.  This is especially true if you are competing in a dynamic market, where the competition is constantly adapting to new customer demands.  Such an environment tends to bring a great deal of challenge and potential reward (financial and beyond), both of which appeal to me greatly.

If anyone ever promised you a rose garden as an entrepreneur, I hope you didn’t believe them.  But if you did, by now you’ve undoubtedly realized that their promise was unrealistic.  Hopefully you’ve also found that, despite the many challenges entrepreneurship brings, or perhaps because of them, being an entrepreneur is a great way to make a living and a meaningful contribution to society.  If not, I hope you are able to hang in there until you find a venture that brings you the satisfaction that entrepreneurship has brought me in my career.

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

Don’t miss an issue of Company Founder! Subscribe today.  It’s free.  It’s private.  It’s practical information for entrepreneurs and leaders interested in taking it to the next level.

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May 022012
 
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share the credit

We, Not Me, Will Take You A Lot Further.  Share The Credit.

In the realm of entrepreneurship, as in most endeavors that require a team effort to undertake successfully, a focus on “we,” not “me” will take you much further.  Share the credit.  Share the limelight.

Recently I was reminded of an entrepreneur with whom I used to work, who found it very difficult to use the words “we” and “us” and “our”.  His preferred vocabulary included “I,” “me,” and “my”.  I suppose that would have been OK, but for the fact that he needed the input, cooperation and collective effort of at least ten team members to successfully complete a project (a Merger/Acquisition transaction in this case).  This created a couple of key problems.

First, given that the M&A transactions were quite complex and often involved tens of millions of dollars, many of the team members wanted to be recognized for their contributions and sacrifices (20-hour days at crunch time on a deal) in getting a deal done.  The more the entrepreneur threw around the word “I” and effectively took credit for all that went well, the more certain team members became frustrated and demoralized.  Since deals often lasted several months, even a year or more, as morale slid, mistakes and undermining behavior became more frequent and jeopardized the successful completion of many deals.

Second, and perhaps more important, the more the entrepreneur threw around the word “I,” the smaller he made his company seem in the eyes of current and prospective clients.  It made it sound like the company was just him and his efforts, rather than the collective effort of a well-managed team with an effective leader.  Since the company was often competing against bigger, better-known rivals to win deals, this had the potential to become a major issue in sales and marketing efforts.

In short, this entrepreneur’s desire to take credit for everything and receive personal recognition, rather than allowing his team to feel like an integral and important part of the company’s success, threatened to undermine the organization’s talent base, deal performance, and credibility in the marketplace.

I spent about eighteen months attempting to convince the entrepreneur that it would make sense to give credit to the team, rather than trying to continuously keep himself individually in the spotlight.  When he’d send me documents to review that were loaded with “I,” I’d send him back a message along the lines of “change I to we and my to our”.  When I’d hear him being self-congratulatory in meetings and sales calls, afterwards I’d gently (and sometimes not-so-gently) remind him that he needed to change his vocabulary and use the word “we” more.  I’d emphasize to him that the only way for the company to grow was to build a strong, capable, motivated team.  I’d tell him to share the credit and that there was no way to do it all individually, nor was there much rationale for pretending that was how it was happening.

I’d like to tell you that the story has a happy ending, but in fact, it did not end well.  The entrepreneur had a hard time taking advice and continued to focus on himself and tout how great he was, rather than building up the people and the organization around him.  He had an inability to understand how others perceived his words and actions, and a lack of desire to make much progress on improving in this area.  His case was a bit extreme, almost to the point of being in sociopath territory.

Eventually, this entrepreneur ended up alienating everyone around him who could help him, including clients, prospects, employees, business associates, family members, and finally, me.  I may have been the most “long-suffering” of the lot, as I looked at helping him improve as a personal challenge, but at the end of the day, he was not capable of changing and ended up with his business and the rest of his life in shambles.  It’s been several years and he has not yet bounced back from this experience.  Meanwhile, the team that was around him at that time has bounced back nicely.  They did not suffer from the same “I-centered” personality flaw.

This is a cautionary tale.  If you think you have some of the tendencies highlighted in this article, be careful.  Be honest with yourself.  Seek counsel from credible sources.  Be willing to change, before you suffer a similar fate to that of the entrepreneur in this article.  Share the credit for all that goes well in your business.

I look forward to your thoughts.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

Don’t miss an issue of Company Founder! Subscribe today.  It’s free.  It’s private.  It’s practical information for entrepreneurs and leaders interested in taking it to the next level.

Go to the right-hand navigation bar near the top of the page, enter your email and click subscribe.  We respect your privacy and will not sell your email address.  Note:  once you subscribe, if the confirmation email doesn’t arrive, check your spam filter.  It usually makes it through, but sometimes those pesky spam filters don’t know what’s good..

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Oct 252011
 
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Change the world

Entrepreneur – Do You Want To Change The World?

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes and are driven by a wide range of objectives.  As I’ve written elsewhere, the emotional reasons for becoming an entrepreneur range from fulfilling basic survival needs to seeking feelings related to esteem, meaning and self-actualization needs.  While there are no hard and fast rules on this, many of the greatest entrepreneurs did not get started seeking fame and fortune; rather, they wanted to change the world.

I never wanted to be a businessman; I just wanted to change the world.  Richard Branson

Do you want to change the world?

At the end of the day, we all change the world even if unintentionally and even if just a little bit.  What sort of change do you want to make happen?  Do you want to do it deliberately or unintentionally?

Remember, you are making changes every day, in your business, in your personal life, in the path that leads to your future.  Or are you?  Are you making changes, or are you just letting life happen?  You have a choice.

Whether you are the CEO of a family business that you had not intended to work in, but inherited when a loved one passed away unexpectedly, or you are a startup entrepreneur seeking to grow your first venture, you are a change agent.  You have the potential to change the world you live in.  Will you make changes intentionally, or will you just let them happen?

Although Steve Jobs said, “Things don’t have to change the world to be important,” he also said:

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.  Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me”.

Steve Jobs and his team at Apple have changed the world of computing and communications in many important ways.  Although he said that something does not have to change the world to be important, I think he would have agreed that changing the world is important.  Like so many of his fellow ultra-successful entrepreneurs, Jobs was not content with the status quo, nor was he asking others what the future should look like.  He had his ideas and his vision and through force of will and extraordinary creativity, he was going to make it happen.

Do you want to change the world in your business?  In your industry?  In some other area of life?  Do you have a vision for what the future should hold?  Do you have the commitment and perseverance to make it happen regardless of what obstacles stand in your way?

Thomas EdisonA trio of Thomas Edison quotes sum up what it takes to change the world:

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Hell, there are no rules – we are trying to accomplish something.

I have not failed.  I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Can you come up with the perspiration to back up your inspiration?  Are you willing to disregard the status quo “rules” to change the world?  Do you have the willpower to persevere through 10,000 failed trials?

If you truly want to change the world for yourself and others, you need to redefine failure and not let it affect you in a negative way.  Take Edison’s approach and let attempt number 10,001 be just another data point, if, in fact, it’s not the one that succeeds.  It might be!

If you want to change the world, then you must have a big vision and channel your “inner Bezos, Jobs, Edison” and other entrepreneurial greats, so that you too will have the perseverance and vision to make a difference.  By the way, you may achieve great financial success along the way as well, but if for some reason you don’t, at least you will have changed the world!  If you truly want to change the world, as Jobs and Apple may say, listen more to those who “think different” than those who don’t.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

Don’t miss an issue of Company Founder! Subscribe today.  It’s free.  It’s private.  It’s practical information for entrepreneurs and leaders interested in taking it to the next level.

Go to the right-hand navigation bar near the top of the page, enter your email and click subscribe.  We respect your privacy and will not sell your email address.  Note:  once you subscribe, if the confirmation email doesn’t arrive, check your spam filter.  It usually makes it through, but we’ve had a few get caught up in the filter..

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Oct 242011
 
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Emotions rule

Entrepreneur – Let Emotion Be Your Friend

Let me start by saying that early in my life and career, I thought emotion was something to be avoided.  I grew up in an environment where nothing positive seemed to come out of showing or admitting to emotion.  It was frowned upon and generally avoided.  I have since learned how limiting such an approach is and how much it misses the unavoidable reality that most human behavior is driven by emotion and “feelings”.  Hopefully, if you’re not already up on this, I can give you some helpful ideas in this article that will allow you to use emotion to your advantage, rather than have it work against you.

Let me state a basic premise of this article, which at this point I take as fact:  like it or not, emotion will largely dictate your behavior and that of the people with whom you interact.  If someone can prove to me that this is not the case, I’d love to hear from you.  In the meantime, with that premise in mind, let’s dive into the issue of emotion and how it runs human behavior.

We have all heard the saying that people try to either “avoid pain or seek pleasure” in what they do.  This does provide a lot of insight into human behavior, but you need to dig deeper into emotion and feelings in order to understand the more specific behavioral drivers.  At some point, I intend to take you on a much deeper “tour” of human feelings and emotion, but for purposes of this article, we’re going to focus in on a few that tend to be very important for entrepreneurs.  In a previous article on the emotional reasons to be an entrepreneur, I focused in on esteem needs and purpose needs as key drivers of entrepreneurial behavior.  Here we will talk about a few very important feelings in the esteem category, which is perhaps the most important category when it comes to becoming a successful entrepreneur and using emotion to your advantage.

Before we talk further about esteem needs, let’s take a look at a definition of emotion:

“Any strong agitation of the feelings actuated by experiencing love, hate, fear, etc., and usually accompanied by certain physiological changes, as increased heartbeat or respiration, and often overt manifestation, as crying or shaking”. [Source: http://dictionary.reference.com]

I like this definition because it talks about a “strong agitation of feelings” and it mentions certain “physiological changes”.  This appeals to me, as I think it’s important to realize that emotion and feelings lead to physical manifestations, including the resulting actions we take.  Some of the manifestations are automatic, and for others, we have to make a conscious effort if we want to take control of them.  An analogy would be that breathing happens automatically (it’s “autonomic”), but we can take control of it with our minds, if we choose and make a deliberate effort to do so.  This has very interesting implications for us as entrepreneurs.  First, it tells us that although emotion may try to push us in a certain direction, if we make a deliberate effort, we can take control.  Second, it reminds us that all of our prospects, customers and other constituencies run on emotion too, so if we’re providing great products and services that make the right impact on them emotionally, we can intentionally push ourselves toward “top of mind”.

So, let’s talk about a few specific feelings in the esteem needs category.  We’ll focus in on four feelings, two positive and two negative: passionate, respected, frustrated, and disappointed.  If we are talking about managing our own emotions, passionate and respected would usually be considered the two positive feelings, and frustrated and disappointed would usually be considered the two negative feelings.  If we are passionate about something, generally we’re very engaged and willing to work hard, long hours on it, without much loss of energy.  If we feel respected, it helps us feel more confident and more able to make the right decisions and expect a positive outcome.  If we are frustrated or disappointed, we often feel “bad” and may feel like we have failed.  This state of mind can often cause us to second guess our decisions and even rethink what we’re doing at a higher level.  For example, we may even wonder if we’re “cut out for” being an entrepreneur.

If we are talking about the emotions of our clients or prospects, the implications may be the opposite of those discussed above, for at least three of the feelings.  For example, if a prospect already feels respected in their situation and as a result they feel “content,” there may not be much reason for them to seek our products or services.  Going back to the definition of emotion above, there may not be any “strong agitation of feelings” that leads the customer or prospect to take action.

If, on the other hand, the prospect or customer is frustrated or disappointed, hopefully more in general, not with our products or services, there may be plenty of “agitation” that will cause them to take action.  In other words, we could say, without emotion, and usually negative emotion, there typically is not significant motion, or action.  More simply, emotion leads to action.  It’s true for us and it’s true for our prospects.  It’s an important reality when you are trying to elicit or understand action, whether it’s yours or that of others!

You probably noticed that I left out one feeling when talking about others, and that was “passionate”.  The reality with passion is that it can go either way.  One can be either passionately positive, or passionately negative, depending on the situation.  It usually is accompanied by plenty of “agitation” though, so be on the lookout for passion as something that can either be very helpful or very harmful in what you’re trying to accomplish.

In order to wrap up, let’s take a step back and point out the obvious implications of the analogy to autonomic versus deliberate breathing:  these feelings will occur automatically, but if you are aware of them and willing to make a conscious effort, you can be in control.  For example, use frustration and disappointment as motivators, instead of letting them be “downers”.  Just this realization alone gives you so much freedom!  You do not have to be a prisoner or a passenger of your emotions; you can take control and drive!

Further, when you are trying to connect with others, including your prospects, you can try to do so on an emotional level, knowing that motion (action) starts with emotion.  There is no shortcut, and your attempts to connect with people on an emotional level must be sincere, but just as Aristotle’s “ethos, pathos and logos” indicates, once you make an emotional connection, it’s much more likely that your logic will be listened to.  That is worth repeating in a slightly different way:  if you go in with your logic without making an emotional connection first, you’re not likely to get anywhere, either with yourself or with others you seek to influence.

We only covered four of hundreds of feelings here, but we covered enough that you should now know to make emotions your friend.  Seek them.  Don’t shy away from them.  If you take this step, I assure you that you will be pleased with the results, both in your own esteem needs and in your ability to influence your key constituencies.  To paraphrase some lyrics from the Rolling Stones, as an entrepreneur, you need to learn to come to your own “emotional rescue”.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

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Oct 202011
 
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Emotional reasons to be an entrepreneur

Emotional Reasons To Be An Entrepreneur

During the course of my 25-year plus career in entrepreneurship, I’ve coached and interacted with several thousand entrepreneurs, ALL of whom had one or several emotional reasons that drove them to set out on their own.  Here I will discuss several emotional reasons people choose to become and remain an entrepreneur.  I will map those emotions and feelings to a structure with which you are probably already familiar:  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  We’ll start at the bottom of the pyramid and work our way up.  In case you need a refresher, here is the structure.

Emotional Reasons To Be An Entrepreneur

Physiological and Security Needs

These are the basic survival needs we have as humans.  In order to survive, we must have air, food, water, and shelter, at a minimum.  Similarly, if we cannot stay safe physically, we are much less likely to survive for any length of time.

Some people become an entrepreneur simply because they need to earn money to satisfy these basic survival needs.  In some cases, there is no deeper reason; it’s just about survival.

Love and Affiliation Needs

It sounds counter-intuitive to say that someone would become an entrepreneur in order to satisfy love and affiliation needs.  These needs require interaction with other people and entrepreneurship is often seen as a “lone wolf” endeavor.  In fact though, there is a great deal of camaraderie among entrepreneurs.  Even though they often are individualistic by nature, there is a certain mutual respect that exists among those who are willing to strike out on their own, against the odds.  I have found many great friendships and professional relationships among the entrepreneurs with whom I’ve interacted and continue to interact.  They are my people.

Esteem Needs

I guess it’s logical and not at all surprising that in my experience at least, this is the main driver of entrepreneurial behavior.  Most entrepreneurs I know want to be perceived as unique and special.  I realize that this is true of most human beings, but for an entrepreneur, this need is often magnified.  They don’t want to be part of the crowd.  They want to make a personal statement in everything they do.  They are usually very proud and confident people, with a lot of drive and very strong desire to be respected for their achievements.

Purpose Needs

Next to esteem needs, I see purpose needs as being the biggest driver of entrepreneurial behavior, at least in my experience and observation.  Many an entrepreneur is asking the bigger questions about the purpose and meaning of life.  This is not true for all entrepreneurs, of course!  However, at least among the entrepreneurs with whom I spend a lot of time, there is a tendency to ask some existential questions and put quite a bit of time into seeking the answers.  This leads many entrepreneurs to explore spirituality and to seek opportunities to make contributions, beyond just the financial, to “the greater good” of society.  This is particularly true of those who have already become successful financially and have satisfied many of the other needs on the pyramid.

Self-Actualization Needs

Self-actualization, which is the pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy, has been used in many different ways in psychology.  From my perspective, it refers to reaching one’s full potential.  In the context of all the needs discussed in this article, it would mean reaching your maximum potential in each of the areas on the pyramid.  Obviously, this would have different meaning for each individual.  Thus, self-actualization is different for each person, as would be how that person’s entrepreneurial activities contribute to reaching their “full potential”.

It’s important to realize that we are all driven by emotions.  As I’ve written elsewhere, decisions are made based on emotion, then justified by logic.  In all cases where you are trying to understand human behavior, whether it be in purchasing decisions, or in why someone chooses to become an entrepreneur, follow the emotions and the feelings and you will find the answers.  Human beings, including and perhaps especially, entrepreneurs, run on emotions, just as a television runs on electricity.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

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Oct 142011
 
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Entrepreneurs don't NEED university

An Entrepreneur Does Not NEED University Education

I get asked a lot if an entrepreneur needs a college degree or university-level education in certain areas, in order to be successful as a business owner.  My answer to this question is:  No – of course not!  The list of entrepreneurs who have been extraordinarily successful without college degrees is “a mile long”.

As someone who spent a lot of time and money on college, it pains me to say it, but you don’t NEED a university education to succeed as an entrepreneur.  I emphasize the word “need,” because although I don’t think a college education is a must for entrepreneurship (it is for some other professions, obviously), I do believe it can be helpful in many ways.  For me at least, the most important thing learned in college was a broader perspective on how human beings have approached life and conquered particular challenges in the PAST.  That said, there’s no reason you cannot learn those things on your own, and further, as entrepreneurs, we’re really mainly interested in the FUTURE.  The past can provide guidance, but you should not believe that the future will be exactly the same as the past.  Rather, as an entrepreneur, you must condition yourself to create the future, and if past “realities” stand in the way, you find a way over, under, around, or through them.

I have written elsewhere that, in my observation and experience, five key character traits to succeed as an entrepreneur are the following.  Let’s look at them in the context of what a university education provides.

  • Perseverance:  Yes, you can learn to persevere in a college environment, but you can also learn it on a farm, on an athletic field, in the military, or on your own in a multitude of scenarios and environments.  Perseverance and the ability to tap the strong willpower that we all possess, come from inside.  Your experiences in earning a college degree can help you further develop these skills, but you can learn them just about anywhere else too.
  • Goal Setting:  If there was a goal-setting course somewhere in my college education, I must have missed it!  Everything I’ve learned about goal setting, I have learned on my own, from experience, from coaches, or in seminars.
  • Tolerate Uncertainty:  I’m not sure going through college really helps much with tolerating uncertainty.  College, at least in my experience, tends to be a very structured environment, where you are told which courses you need to take to obtain a certain degree.  There’s usually flexibility in some of the curriculum, but generally speaking, there’s a lot of imposed structure and not much uncertainty.  An exception may be if you pledge a fraternity or sorority, but that’s another story, and you don’t need to go to college to join groups that “put you through the ringer” to become a member.
  • Strong Desire To Succeed:  Having a strong desire to succeed is something that comes from inside.  You can help yourself nurture this desire by setting goals that really fire you up, but in the end, this desire comes from within you and cannot be taught at college.
  • Different Definition Of Failure:  Again, college is a very structured environment, unlike that of entrepreneurship.  In college you get a grade from A to F.  True, you can either pass or fail, the binary nature of which is more parallel to what you see in the world of entrepreneurship, but again in college it’s occurring in a protected and structured environment.  There’s little reality in a protected environment.  Some professors do a great job of mixing “real life” scenarios into the education process, but by and large, the university environment is its own little world.  Quite frankly, that may help with the issue of having a “different definition of failure,” where it’s not expected that every test and every person be 100% successful right out of the gate.  There needs to be room for “many small failures” and course correction along the way; that’s how entrepreneurship works best.  The utility of college on this one could go either way, depending on the particular student, the particular university, the particular course of study, the particular professor, etc.

Let’s add five other key “things” that are very helpful in your quest to be a successful entrepreneur, and let’s also look at those in the context of a university education.

  • Basic Understanding Of Finance And Accounting:  These can certainly be learned in the university environment.  You don’t need a college degree to understand them though.  In fact, the key issues can be learned in a long weekend, or even less, if you’re already comfortable with numbers.
  • Being Able To Differentiate Opportunities From Ideas:  A good course in new venture initiation at the college level will get you pretty much all you need to know about how to filter through ideas and determine if they’re opportunities.  Again though, you can learn how to do this easily without ever stepping foot on a college campus, or taking an online college course, never mind obtaining a diploma.
  • Knowing How To Sell:  You may learn a bit about selling and persuasion in your college experience.  It won’t likely have anything to do with the courses you take though; rather, it will happen in the many social interactions that occur during college.  There are university courses on negotiation and sales, but they also exist outside the college environment and tend to be much shorter and more focused.
  • Networking Well:  Learning to network well is something most people do by trial and error.  It can help to have a mentor or two, whether it’s in a college environment or not.  You certainly don’t need a college degree to be good at networking.
  • Knowing How To Market:  Marketing is as much art as science.  It’s very helpful to learn the theory behind it, which you can do in college, at your job, on your own through self-study, or in your entrepreneurial experience.  In the end, marketing is about testing, testing and more testing.  You need to understand how to run the tests and how to interpret the results, then run the tests again.  How you learn this, is up to you.

So, what do you think?  Do you NEED a university education to be successful as an entrepreneur?  If you agree with what I’ve said in this article, the answer is obviously:  “No”!  If you have a university degree or are pursuing one, I’m not saying it’s worthless!  The way I look at it, just as athletes who are considering pro sports are wise to have a university degree “in their back pocket” as a form of insurance, so are entrepreneurs.  Like pro sports, entrepreneurship is a highly competitive endeavor with significant uncertainty regarding how long you’ll be able to do it and what your ultimate level of success will be.

That said, many would say that such college degrees have now become commoditized, and except in specific circumstances, don’t really offer you much “insurance” or differentiation in the job market.  It’s your life; you’ll have to be the judge of course!  But if entrepreneurship is your focus, you have every opportunity to be successful whether or not you have a college degree on your wall, or in your closet.  I would not change or trade the time I spent in college, but that’s not because it taught me to be a good entrepreneur.  It’s for a host of other reasons.

In my own experience, I created a great network of friends and business contacts during my time in college, which has been very beneficial to me throughout my entire entrepreneurial career.  Also, given that I focused a lot of my college activities in the area of entrepreneurship, I had some great mentors and some great entrepreneurial growth and learning experiences during my college years.  This did not happen because I was in college though, or because I ultimately earned a couple of degrees; it happened because I’ve always made sure that wherever I was, I was making progress toward my goals of improving myself as an entrepreneur.  Wherever you are and wherever you’ve been, you can certainly do the same!

I look forward to your thoughts and questions.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

 

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