The Misunderstood Entrepreneur

I think people misunderstand us entrepreneurs.

For that, let me clarify what makes me and pretty much every other entrepreneur in this world do what we do.

When people think about entrepreneurs, they think of people like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and the like. But, what they forget is that at one point these folks were in the same spot as you; sacrificing, staying up all night coding, spending every last dollar on their dream. Yeah, they didn’t have shit on their way to the top, but they were happy doing something they were passionate about.

You see, people get caught up in the public face and the hype about a company but forget about what’s going on under the hood and the time that’s being put in to get to the top.

They never seem to ask either or take the time to understand. Then….one day, we surprise the hell out of them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘To be great is to be misunderstood

Because I often feel misunderstood (Maybe you do too), I thought I would take a stab at helping others better understand us.

We have a method to our madness. We don’t sit around on our computers all day doing nothing. It may seem like the strangest thing, but every one of us have a process for thinking things through, strategizing, and making decisions. We are process oriented people and think like a builder. Sometimes we don’t even know what we are doing it just comes natural as it’s part of our fabric.

We trust our gut to the end. We’ve spent our lives absorbed in chasing our dreams and for this we are extremely confident when it comes to trusting our instincts and following whatever inspires us the time. We follow what we believe in, not what other people think is right or what society tells us we should do. We may listen to others, but it’s only a trusted few and in the end it’s still going to be our.

You won’t find a more passionate person. This is what we do. There is nothing else…it’s all we know and want. It could be writing code, coming up with the next great product, or changing an entire industry, we love it. It inspires us to go big or go home. It’s ultimately where we feel most comfortable. We feel at home and if you were to ask any of us, we would tell you that there is nothing else we’d rather be doing.

We are quick on our feet. We can process things, come to grips with a situation, and understand complexities very quickly. Stuff that might take you two hours to understand we can take care of in minutes.

Problems are our lifeblood. We enjoy nothing more than seeking out and solving problems. We see every problem as an opportunity worth solving. It’s like it’s a never-ending game or something. We actually get off on it. And once we fully understand the problem, we will bring everything we have to the table to come up with the right solution, business model, decision, whatever it takes.

We have something to prove. It’s not entirely clear as to who, but we have something to prove. Maybe it’s to ourselves, that we really can solve a certain problem and build something out of nothing. Who knows. Regardless, we are all on a pursuit to achieve greatness and we will let nothing stand in our way.

Hardass workers. You will find no one that works harder than us. Yeah, you may work with your hands, but you eventually come home and sit with your families. We lay awake at night thinking about our companies. We wake up in the middle of the night to start working on a thought or an idea. It never stops. It never ends. Our work is our life. It’s obvious really when you consider how passionate we are about what we do and how driven we are for accomplishment.

And just for the sake of knowing, If you ever end up working with one of us, the worst thing you can do is sit on your ass. We hate people who say yes all the time and we are impatient with folks who don’t add value. We surround ourselves with people who can make things happen. If this is you, great. If not, move along. We think this way. Come on board and get to work or get out of our way. Easy as that.

 

VISION OVER CUSTOMERS

Are you placing a higher value on listening to your customers over creating a vision of how business and products can be done differently? If this is you, as Mark Cuban would say, “You need to have your ass kicked.”

Customers aren’t always the smartest person in the room, so stop building your organization around them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t conduct focus groups and customer insights (these are super important), I’m just saying you shouldn’t build your entire organization around them.

Talking with lots of companies and entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that one of the biggest mistakes you can make is asking your customers what features or services they want to see – this isn’t always the case, just the majority of the time.

Instead of asking your customers what they want, come up with a vision of how business can be done differently, how the game can be changed. Customers don’t always see the value or need until they are slapped in the face with it. And when they try it, they love it and tell their friends!

It’s not the job of your customers to know what they want or need. That is your job. It is your job to study, predict, and create the future. Be a futurist, a visionary, a Steve Jobs.

When you think of customers, you think of people who work a full time job, run their kids around, go to school, along with several other things all wrapped into their day. They don’t have the time to do your job too.

It is your job as the entrepreneur to invent the future and stay ahead of the curve. Look high and low, around corners, inside the box (I will blog about this later), whatever it takes.

Now, go make your customers happy, take care of their needs, and listen to them. Just don’t build your entire company around them.

 

WHAT WILL YOU DO IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOUR STAR?

Is your company operating on a lone star model? Do you understand the consequences of building a company around this model?

This happens more often than you think – companies that are built around one person and when he or she leaves everything tends to slowly fall apart. Think Apple years ago – there are several others too. You do not want this. Take the time to discover and nurture talent in every area of your organization.

It doesn’t matter how good a strategy or value prop you have, at the end of the day, you will need a well crafted organization filled with talent if you want to execute and build a successful organization.

In today’s knowledge economy, team building is one of the most important risks you need to manage – building a strong team can be difficult too, but possible when made a priority. Are you making it a priority?

Note: A strong team is not one where a single person disproportionally influences the team’s results.

Everyone seems to cherish the company champ, but if you want constant business growth, you better have organizational structures in place to ensure that the other team members are ready to take the lead when something happens to the champ.

What about you?

How are you building your organization?

 

18 QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR START UP

It’s fired up Friday and I’m off to spend a beautiful weekend with my family and friends, but before I do, I wanted to share 18 questions that can help you and your start up get on track to producing loads of fruit!

Have fun and I hope these help! Peace.

  1. Can you summarize the purpose of your business on the back of a business card?
  2. What is the size of your market and is it poised for rapid growth?
  3. What is happening in your target market?
  4. What kind of margins are available in your industry?
  5. Are you targeting a market on the path to $1B potential?
  6. Are you targeting rich customers who will move fast and pay a premium for a unique offering?
  7. What is your customer focus?
  8. Are you providing your customers a simple product with a singular value proposition?
  9. Are you focusing on the one thing that is of burning importance to the customer and delighting them with a solution?
  10. Are you thinking differently and challenging conventional wisdom?
  11. Are you rejecting what is original and creating new novel like solutions?
  12. Are you outwitting your competition?
  13. Are you building a winning team?
  14. Are you attracting an “A” level team?
  15. Are you building an agile plan that allows for flexibility, stealth, and speed? (This is what will help you beat our the big players)
  16. Are you being frugal and only spending on what’s critical?
  17. Are you spending capital on priorities that drive maximum profitability?
  18. Are you seeding your company with little capital so that it forces you to stay discipline and focused?

NEVER STOP THROWING STUFF AGAINST THE WALL

Charlie is a charismatic, young, innovative, go getter, who for some reason just can’t get stuff to stick to the wall. He’s frustrated, confused, and just about ready to give up when…..

John, his old buddy stops by to have a beer and share a little wisdom with him. He says, “Charlie, take a seat here boy and let me tell you something that will change your life. Charlie, back in my day I use to feel the same way, I would constantly throw stuff against the wall and for years and years nothing would stick. And then, finally, after years of throwing stuff against the wall, there it was, plastered on the wall, that one thing that I had been working so hard for.”

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SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO EVERYDAY WHEN JUST STARTING OUT

This is a guest post by Tamaryn Tobian, founder of Spectacle Creative Media in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can follow her tweets on Twitter. If you want to guest post on my blog, please, check out the guidelines here.

 In the last nine months or so, I’ve learned more things and experienced more life changes than I had pimples during puberty.  That’s what following your gut and jumping into risk with both feet does. Why so many life changes?  I started my own business – a creative communications company.

In truth, it seemed like a crazy idea. In this economy? Especially when I started to count how many other little creative agencies and studios there are in my city. There’s a lot of them. But, I did it anyway.

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23 COMMON ATTRIBUTES THAT ALL SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS SHARE

Whatever your beliefs, after years of being a business man and surrounding myself with other successful business men and women, I’ve found there to be a number of common attributes that we share. Please take a few minutes to read through and see if you agree.

If you don’t have the skills, don’t worry about it either. Most of the skills, I’ve gotten by screwing up. Yup, screwing up. We all do it and it’s just the way it is. If you think you are any different you are wrong. Sorry.

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