The 1 Word That Changes Entrepreneurship

The difference between failure and success as a business owner can be minuscule.

Being an entrepreneur for 10 years I’ve had to learn a lot of hard lessons, but one concept has been clear-cut lately.

Systems beat sweat.

That doesn’t contradict hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, instead it signals that “smarter” refers to systems when it comes to efficiency.

The simple shift from “my” business to “the” business can be the difference between being profitable and a hobby.

A lot of entrepreneurs describe their business as their baby (as did I) which can be a huge mistake.

If you watch a lot of business shows on TV like The Profit, Shark Tank & Restaurant Startup the common theme you’ll see is a clear system in place. The term scale is thrown out like common lingo meaning to strategically plan for exponential growth.

For myself I didn’t embrace this theory early on because my reasons for owning a business had more to do with flexibility than money. If you fall more into the lifestyle entrepreneur category like me, scaling is still very important.

Most people who leave Corporate America do it because they want to be their own boss. What you don’t realize is you’re leaving a systemized company that has already figured out how to scale. Besides now figuring out how to make money, the challenge of creating a repeatable, predictable system falls on you.

Once you start looking at your idea (pre-business) as a business, not your business, it becomes less personal and more objective. Ever wonder why it’s easier to give advice to other business owners than to your own? It’s because it’s not yours!

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be invested and passionate about your business, but less attached and more determined to make it run without you.

Successful business owners almost seem a bit detached from their business and that’s actually healthy. They are more focused on strategy and automation than having their hands all over it. In fact, similar to most authors, once you start a business there’s a good chance it won’t be your last (regardless of the success of failure of one).

Serial entrepreneurship is a lifestyle. It’s being obsessed with ideas and figuring out how to monetize them. I can’t say I’ve figured it out, but it’s a ride I hope I never get tired of going on.

One word makes all the difference.

Corporate America’s Missing Ingredient

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There’s something missing in Corporate America, but it’s not what you think.

Technology gives us the opportunity to work remotely and scale businesses.

Outsourcing labor multiplies growth while saving massive amounts of time.

Investors provide the resources to transform a hobby into an empire.

But the one thing that retains the top talent worldwide is: empathy.

In a broadcast-driven society, rarely do people put themselves in other’s shoes.

Managing egos and customizing messaging is the difference between success and failure.

Here’s why:

Even with the best technology you still need people to run it. Salaries are competitive, social impact is rampant and perks are plentiful. Therefore how you treat people defines their company loyalty.

Take for instance managers. The top reason most people leave their jobs is because they feel disrespected or undervalued. Simply viewing the impact of your decisions from the receiver’s point of view makes all the difference in the world. Most managers are ill-equipped to lead others. Just because you’re a great widget maker doesn’t translate well to a manager of widget makers.

Empathy is a learned skill (although it can be argued some have a higher ceiling than others). Kids are taught at a young age to think about how their actions affect others. Somewhere between preschool and adulthood that lesson is forgotten. Money and power corrupt our ability to serve.

Personally I’ve witnessed many conflicts started because of a failure to empathize. The same reasons countries go into war on a macro-level happens to co-workers at a micro-level. Stress has a tremendous drain on productivity and the majority of it can be avoided by showing empathy.

The downgrade of soft skills will only continue to get worse and at the core of the deterioration is a lack of empathy.

Empathy is not something HR can teach or a motivational speaker can inspire you to do. It takes making a commitment to servant leadership. Stop thinking positional leadership puts you on top. Instead understand supporting others from beneath actually pushes them to reach their fullest potential.

Will you do your part?

The 1 Thing You Have To Give Up To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

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Your relationships.

Anyone who has been a successful business owner has sacrificed their personal life at some point.

I’m not against working hard, but at what expense?

I hear a lot of 20 somethings say they want to focus on their career then get married and start a family in their 30’s. Well guess what: relationships don’t grow on trees nor come without a cost – mainly time.

It’s the same reason why most celebrities and professional athletes aren’t able to maintain a strong family unit because they’ve chosen to put their careers in the forefront and their relationships outside of work on the back burner. If you’re fortunate enough to have a selfless spouse who can hold the house down while you’re away then it can work, but that takes a special individual to put your needs before theirs.

When I look back on my career as a full-time entrepreneur I realize why I never met my own lofty expectations: I put people before profit. It’s your choice which one you choose, but rarely can you pick both.

I had too many boundaries in place to go “all-in,” therefore I would work up to a certain point, but cared about my lifestyle more than my possessions.

This post isn’t to mock those who have made it big nor is it putting those who are relationally-focused on a pedestal. It’s my observation of over 10+ years of reading, hearing and witnessing first-hand what it really takes to live the American Dream.

If there’s an understanding in terms of priorities that your career is first then those associated with you have to abide by it. Of course hard work alone doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it you don’t stand a chance.

The realization I came to is: people are most important to me.

When I first started my business I had financial goals in mind that I hit quickly, but over time I realized to reach the next tier I’d have to sacrifice the relationships around me. Since I wasn’t willing to do that, the numbers of hours I dedicated reflected in the amount of the paycheck (or lack thereof).

Fortunately I married someone who shares my values. I love that she is raising our two kids at home until they are full-time at school. We can make it on a single income because we live lean and value our time together the most. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy, but you do need to allocate a great amount of time to others.

It’s up to you to decide what currency is most important: time or money. Once you do, it’s easy to know where you should spend your energy.

Why Industry Experience Is Overrated

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If you think you didn’t get hired at your last interview because of lack of experience, you’re wrong.

Lack of experience is a strike against you, but if that employer didn’t see potential beyond your resume you wouldn’t even have an interview in the first place.

Your resume is like a Driver’s License. It qualifies you for the job, but you have to prove your value to the company in-person.

In fact sometimes industry experience can be a bad thing. For example if you were at your previous job for 10+ years and didn’t know anything else, how adaptable and flexible can you really be moving forward?

In my current role as a Faculty Manager for an online test prep/academic tutoring company I was on the outside looking in. The tutors I manage remotely know way more about the SAT/ACT than I’ll ever care to know. So when asked if I had any experience in the education space during my interview, I responded by focusing on my strengths for the position.

Since I am managing tutors, not teaching students, I talked about leading people. As for former youth pastor I dealt with parents of teenagers (most clients are high school students). As an entrepreneur I am organized and specialize in time management (managing programs and learning the system is 50% of the job for our tutors). Knowing the technical skills of high school academia is irrelevant for me. As long as I can prove I can get the results from the tutors I add value to the company.

My situation may not suit yours, but my point is simple: know thyself.

Self-awareness is the most important trait of any leader. Know what you’re great at and also what you suck at. Most jobs ask you to multi-task, but within those responsibilities there are priorities. Nail those and now you have leverage.

Selling yourself is having confidence in your abilities and knowing who you are. Every time you decide to pivot careers you’re at the same place. You will switch careers frequently for the rest of your working life so get used to it.

An employer notifying you didn’t get the job because of lack of experience is a scapegoat. What they really meant is they don’t have the confidence that you can get the job done despite experience. If you understand that going in, you’ll focus less on what you don’t have and leverage your strengths to the fullest.

Don’t use lack of industry experience as an excuse. It’s only one if you choose it to be.

Why You Shouldn’t Set New Year’s Resolutions

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With the start of a new year, resolutions come to mind, but come mid-January (or February at the latest) you’ve already broken your promise. Why is that?

Resolutions, similar to goals, are set up to fail from the start. Here’s why:

The main reason why accomplishing your goals have such a low success rate is because even the best effort doesn’t result in perfection. This isn’t a scapegoat for not trying, but rather working the odds in your favor.

New Year’s Resolutions can be compared to starting a new business. The failure rate within the first 3 years is 80%. Now 3 years is longer than one month, but the concept is the same. Resiliency and patience are hard to come by. Call it a result of our fast-paced society, but we suck at waiting for results.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but making behavior changes is hard work.

If you’ve ever set a goal and failed at it, you remember the feeling. You’ll do whatever you can to not revisit that feeling because its debilitating. Hence the reason why we avoid goal setting in the first place.

Instead shift your focus to creating good habits. Not only are habits better than goals, but they are process-oriented meaning progress is the desired outcome not perfection.

For example: losing 20 pounds is a goal while living a healthy lifestyle is a habit. You may lose the weight (doubtful), but chances are you’ll gain it back and then some shortly after. But if you decide to workout 3 times a week (on average) and cut your weekly sugar intake not only will you lose the weight, but it’s a sustainable change because you give yourself grace for special occasions.

It’s popular to set New Year’s Resolutions in January because the calendar is a trigger for fresh starts. Beyond that there’s not a real good reason why then is the best time.

When you want to fix or achieve something following the the right process is almost more important than the desired outcome. At it’s core nothing is wrong with goals, but if you want to set yourself up for success in the new year focus on habits and the results will come in time.

Why The 40 Hour Work Week Needs To Die (Part 2)

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Have you ever wondered where the 40-hour work week originated?

Henry Ford actually scaled it back from 48 hours back in the early 1900’s.

The fact we have to go back almost 100 years shows how outdated the model is.

Recently Amazon is in the news for enforcing the 30 hour week, at a reduced rate, yet it’s a step in the right direction.

Sweden boasts a 6-hour workday which is based on research that a person is only productive for 6 hours a day anyway.

I’ll take it a step further and propose a four-day, 24 hour work week.

Salaries would decrease, but in the gig economy most people earn additional income from a side hustle. Corporate wellness exists mainly because of the negative repercussions of over-worked, stressed and distracted workers. Reducing the work week to 24 hours would nearly eliminate sick days, burnout and lack of productivity.

As I mentioned in an earlier article, stop upholding tradition and start focusing on results. With the advancements in technology, scaling “human” work stands true also.

Although Millennials are leading the charge, lifestyle matters more than passion. We work to support the type of lifestyle we want to live. The quicker companies embrace that, time spent/off becomes the greatest currency.

In business, we must evaluate our current procedures to see if there is a more efficient way it can be done. Sweden and Amazon are leading the way, the rest of Corporate America needs to catch up.

Why Work Life Balance Is A Unicorn

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Work Life Balance is extinct.

Compartmentalization is so last year.

The concept used to be a Venn Diagram with the left circle representing your professional life, the right circle your personal life and the overlap the “balance.”

Now your life is just one big circle, a.k.a. Work Life Integration.

If you’re unhappy at work, you’re unhappy in life (and vice versa).

That doesn’t necessarily mean follow your passion (although nothing’s wrong with it). It means focus on your desired lifestyle and find a career to support it.

Job turnover isn’t just a Millennial thing. It’s reality moving forward.

Admit it. You’re most likely not going to work your current job for the rest of your lifetime (the benefits aren’t that great right?), so job-hopping becomes the norm.

Blame it on the following reasons: Boredom. Multi-Passionate. Uncertainty.

But the biggest reason: Life Stage.

If someone asks me how I feel about entrepreneurship now vs. when I started (almost 10 years ago) my response is: I’m married and have 2 kids.

It doesn’t mean I don’t love being my own boss anymore. It means my family is more important.

So using the lifestyle analogy, I’ll stick with being an entrepreneur as long as it supports me financially enough to control how much time I spend with my family.

Your career (and life too) goes through seasons of change.

Balance isn’t achieved by being proactive.

The tension between battling priorities in your life sharpens your choices.

Choose what’s most important to you based on the most valuable currency: time.

That’s no myth.

The Unemployed Entrepreneur

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Want to know the real motivation behind current entrepreneurs?

Being broke.

As a business owner each day you wake up needing to sell.

You either make money that day or you don’t.

Nothing is given to you. You have to fight for everything a.k.a. the daily grind.

Signing up as an entrepreneur basically makes you a sales person. Even though you’re the boss, you’re 100% responsible for selling. It’s tough work, not for the faint at heart. In fact, you become so accustomed to rejection you think you’re dating her.

But chasing your dreams does have a tremendous upside. Complete freedom is one of the best feelings you can experience and once you’ve been the boss, it’s tremendously hard to go back to working for someone else. In the right situation it’s possible, but chances are while you’re working, you’re strategizing how you can improve the process on your own.

The reason entrepreneurship is down with Millennials is because it’s too big of a risk. Chasing your dreams doesn’t pay well. If you like supplemental income for travel, dining out and adventures put that on hold. Considering starting a family? One of you better have a stable job with benefits or suffer a drop in quality of lifestyle.

Possibly a larger factor than a big, scalable idea is timing. Forget age, what life stage are you in: single and career driven or in a relationship and starting a family? The answer to that question will give you clarity on whether or not to pursue your dreams. Starting a business takes more of an investment in time than money, so your current level of responsibility will give you clarity on pulling the trigger.

Take it from someone whose priorities changed drastically over the past several years. What was a good decision before, isn’t the best decision now. Pride aside, your life goals change which calls for a life pivot.

Entrepreneurship can be for everyone, but think about the lifestyle you want to maintain and decide from there.

Let’s Start A Workplace Revolution Together

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Josh is a good friend I met for coffee over 6 years ago. We were both at different places then, but our similar views on leadership and work kept the conversation going. Since we connected both of us became authors and dads. Josh is someone I always bounce ideas off of because he’s such an insightful and bright human being. He’s always been supportive of me and I am a big fan of his. I hope you enjoy a peek into this thought leader’s mind:

1) You truly are a thought leader. What does that term mean to you & how does it influence your work?

To me, leadership (for anyone) is about one thing: doing something that’s worth following. To that end, I’m always trying to spread thoughts, ideas, and stories that help others envision a better future for work, and inspire them to come along on the journey. Right now, for the vast majority of people on the planet, work truly sucks. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have all the tools we need to fix this—it’s a desire and design problem, not a capability problem. I want us all to start believing we can create something better… because we can.

2) At the core of what you do lies in making organizations better. Explain your philosophy briefly.

Most of us optimize many different parts of our organizations: marketing, finance, operations, etc. What we typically don’t maximize as a business driver is our culture—the human size of our business. What I mean is, every person in your company has a choice at every moment: will they bring their best self to their work, or will it be something less than their peak performance? We create organizations where people choose peak performance as often as possible, improving results across the board.

3) When we first met, we were both “kidless,” but now as a parent how has that affected the way you view/do work?

Being a dad has made me acutely more aware of the opportunity cost of my time and the finite-ness of my energy. I’ve always had some vague understanding that choosing one thing makes something else impossible, but that notion is now technicolor. And, at the same time as we added kids to our family, I’ve also added more colleagues to my company. Both changes are amazing… and also extraordinarily challenging. I’m doing my best to leverage the benefits of both these things: learning to continually do the things that are the highest and best use of my time at work and to find partners on my team to help make all the other stuff happen, in order to maximize the time I get with my kids. It’s remarkably difficult, but I’m slowly getting better!

4) You recently picked up and moved to a new state, what has that transition to a new “home” been like?

We recently moved to Denver after being in Los Angeles for a decade. We’ve been here now for about 6 months, and I’m afraid I’d be lying if I said we were somehow “settled!” My job has changed very little—in fact, that part of my life has mostly been made better as I’m now closer to a better airport—but the rest of life was completely uprooted, of course. Starting over isn’t easy for anyone, far as I can tell (and moving to a cold climate in the middle of the winter was just a serious bummer), but I will say that the wonderful folks of Colorado have been very kind to us. I’m extremely optimistic that this will be an excellent home for us and our kiddos!

5) You and I are strong advocates of leveraging personal strengths, tell my readers about the Strengthscope and how it can benefit them and their companies!

Let me put this as simply as I can: if your organization doesn’t have a strengths-based culture, you are simply NOT getting peak performance out of your people. Period. Here’s what I’ve learned over the last decade: humans are physically incapable of producing sustained excellence if we’re not utilizing our strengths in our work. My consulting group utilizes an assessment called Strengthscope® to jumpstart these conversations and help people re-orient their mindsets towards a path that’s far more productive and positive! We love it.

Why Routines Should Be Mandatory

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People ask me all the time, “What’s the biggest difference between having a boss versus being your own?

Besides a steady paycheck, my response is: a lack of routine.

Parents stress how children need routine and structure to survive (it’s true I have 2 kids under 3 years old). But what works for kids also works for adults.

If you work for a company your routine is taken care of during the day, but if you’re an entrepreneur or even work remotely it’s up to you to set a routine.

I’ve been on my own since 2007 and through much trial and error here’s what works for me:

Morning workouts – I try to exercise 5 times a week in the mornings between 6:30-8:30 AM. I don’t consider myself a morning person, but with 2 kids I don’t have much of a choice. Since I’m up anyway, I force myself to go to the gym regardless of how I feel. It’s become my morning coffee and when I don’t stick to this routine I literally get cranky and feel lethargic.

Task time – I know I do my best work from about 10 AM-2 PM. As much as possible I try to find a quiet place with minimal distractions and accomplish as much as I can. Since I’m a pretty organized person I schedule everything into my phone with alerts so I don’t have to think about what to do next. This uninterrupted time is when I plan my workshops, speeches, marketing, etc. Protect this time, it’s necessary.

People time – Around mid-afternoon I usually hit a wall, so meeting with people, Skype or phone calls are scheduled between 2-5 PM. Conversations energize me, so whatever creative juices I am lacking usually get rejuvenated through interactions. Of course sticking to this schedule isn’t mandatory, but over time you pinpoint what flows best for you and go with it.

Routines promote productivity. Without them distractions will rule your life. I’m a planned person, but don’t consider myself Type A. The nice thing about routines is they can change. Tinker with them to see what works best. What matters most is to have them.

Routines are like boundaries. They determine what is useful and help us decide what to say yes and no to. That’s why they should be mandatory.